Virus rule likely to stay ‘indefinitely’

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the three-day streak of no community transmission of COVID-19 had made her and the state’s health experts so optimistic she believed restrictions could be rolled back next week. If everything goes to plan, greater Sydney will return to “pre-Avalon” conditions next week, with one exception. “Mask wearing in certain settings might be something we keep indefinitely,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters. “The reason is … we’re still looking at the impact of the various strains of the virus that are emerging, and we just want to give people that additional line of defence.”

The Premier was referring to several new strains of COVID-19 that have emerged recently in countries like the UK and South Africa, which are believed to be more transmissible if not deadlier.The mask mandate was introduced on January 4 and means people risk a $200 fine for failing to wear a face mask in public indoor settings, such as public transport and supermarkets. It was one of several tough new restrictions put in place to tamp down an outbreak that began in the Sydney northern beaches suburb of Avalon in mid-December. The outbreak seeded multiple new clusters around the city before community cases finally reached zero again this week. Reverting back to the restrictions in place before that outbreak could mean more people would be allowed to visit others at home, and caps on outdoor gatherings could be expanded. It could also mean indoor dancefloors and singing would be allowed, as well as standing outdoors at hospitality venues.

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