Face masks will no longer be mandatory in hair and beauty salons, places of worship and gaming rooms in greater Sydney from 12.01am this Friday.
Hospitality workers will also no longer have to wear them – the only place they will remain mandatory is public transport, taxis and ride-sharing services.
All venues, except gyms, that are currently subjected to the four-square-metre rule will from 12.01am Friday be subject to a two-square-metre rule.
For the purpose of social-distancing restrictions, greater Sydney includes Wollongong, the Central Coast, and Blue Mountains.
“Hospitality venues, functions, events will be able to go back to the 2 square metre rule both indoors and outdoors from Friday,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
NSW has gone 24 days without detecting any local transmission of COVID-19.
There were 18,885 tests reported in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday, more than double Monday’s total of 7315.
Ms Berejiklian applauded people from Wollongong and the Illawarra for coming forward for swabs, after a case was identified in Wollongong at the weekend.
Authorities say that infection – which was found in a person who had recently returned for overseas and tested negative twice in hotel quarantine – was likely to be a historical infection.
As such, it is not being counted as a locally transmitted case.
Earlier this week, NSW Health said it was investigating the source of the Wollongong infection after several other people who had also been quarantining at Sydney’s Sofitel Wentworth tested positive.
On Wednesday, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said there were five other COVID-19 cases linked to the hotel. Genomic testing had found the strains of four of them do not match the Wollongong traveller’s infection.
The fifth one does match, but is a historical case, Dr Chant said.
“On that basis we think evidence of transmission in the hotel quarantine system is unlikely,” she said.
The Wollongong case tested positive 16 days after arriving in Australia, and two days after being released from hotel quarantine.
Dr Chant she said there would be further genomic testing done on the case, but it may come down to “expert opinion” as to the source.
“The two possibilities we are pursuing actively are whether this case was an old case – some people who have the infection don’t develop antibodies so that remains possible,” she said.
“We are also considering whether it is a case which has presented with an extended incubation period.”
Dr Chant also said the investigation into the source of the Avalon cluster was coming to a close.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney’s northern beaches resulted in more than 150 COVID-19 cases, and the area being locked down over the Christmas period.
She said authorities had thoroughly investigated “every possible thread” and expected to receive the report soon.
Earlier on Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian rejected her Victorian counterpart’s quips about the southern state’s “higher quality” hotel quarantine system.
She said the guidelines for quarantine for all states and territories were set by national cabinet.
“I think success is measured by how many people you’re able to bring in,” she said.
“[Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is] pretty good at spin, that’s all I’ll say.”
She said she looked forward to the caps on international travellers through Sydney Airport increasing to 3000 a day from Monday.
“All I know is NSW have welcomed more than half of the [returned travellers] during the pandemic,” she said.
“Is the system in NSW perfect? No, and I would never boast about it.”