Rules requiring close contacts of confirmed COVID cases to isolate for 14 days are likely to be tossed out once NSW businesses reopen in less than a fortnight.
Under existing rules, anyone deemed a close contact of a virus patient must isolate for 14 days, even if they test negative.
But NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant has signalled that will change once the state begins its major reopening on October 11.
“All businesses will be having indoor mask-wearing. All businesses will be having fully vaccinated staff,” she said on Wednesday.
“In terms of hospitality or new businesses that are opening and permitted at 70 per cent, those strategies and having the COVID-safe tea rooms will protect you from having anyone off.”
But she said businesses had to ensure staff were fully vaccinated, masks were being worn and they were not gathering in other informal settings that increased transmission risk.
“We intend to be providing businesses with a matrix which takes into account various areas. We will be more concerned about some settings, so some settings like health care, disability, aged care, we may take a more cautious approach, because we are concerned about the complexity and the consequences in those settings,” Dr Chant said.
“In other settings, it may be that we assume when everyone is vaccinated, and you have knowingly taken that risk, we don’t do the same level of contact tracing that has been occurring in the earlier phases in the outbreak.”
NSW confirmed another 863 local cases on Wednesday, the same number as the previous 24-hour period.
There were also 15 more deaths – eight men and seven women aged from their 40s to their 90s – taking the toll from the Delta outbreak to 331.
Vaccination rates continue to rise, with 86.2 per cent of eligible NSW residents partially vaccinated, and 61.7 per cent having had both doses.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was confident the state would reach 90 per cent of over 16s with one dose sometime next week.
But Dr Chant is aiming higher, with an average of 40,000-50,000 people coming forward for first doses in NSW every day.
“I want to edge it up to 93 per cent and I think NSW can do it,” she said.
A suite virus rules will lift in NSW on October 11, with the fully vaccinated able to dine out, go to the gym and have five visitors in their home.
But the government has faced further questions about plans to enforce the rules, which prohibit the unvaccinated from taking part.
NSW Police has indicated it won’t police vaccination passports, and Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Tuesday that businesses wouldn’t be punished for rule breakers.
Ms Berejiklian denied that meant no one would enforce the restrictions, arguing there were incentives for individuals and businesses to do the right thing.
“For a large venue with hundreds of people if there, we would expect a staff member to be checking that as people come in. For very small premises, that expectation is less,” she said.
“[But] I just want to stress the point that anybody who flagrantly does the wrong thing will be fined.
“There are penalties for individuals and businesses.”
The primary focus of businesses, however, should be ensuring the safety of their staff – not necessarily their patrons, Dr Chant said.
They need to protect themselves, by being vaccinated, she said.
“As case numbers rise, to some extent the onus will be a little bit more about personal responsibility.”
“In a world where COVID is endemic, you need to take into account that you could be exposed.
“You need to assess your own personal risk profile.”