Masks will no longer be required in indoor settings from February 28 while density limits will be removed and QR check-ins dumped, the Weekender understands.
While no official decision is likely to be made for some weeks, the Weekender has learned that several senior figures within the State Government are pushing for restrictions to be significantly eased.
Masks being dumped is seen as opening the door to having people return to the office, a critical layer of ensuring the Sydney and Parramatta CBDs in particular can emerge from their slumber. There is a chance they may remain in place in high risk settings, but sources say it is “highly unlikely” they’ll be required in general office environments or shopping centres from March.
It is also likely that singing and dancing will return in hospitality venues.
Premier Dominic Perrottet is believed to be on board with easing restrictions but was noncommittal when quizzed earlier this week.
“The government hasn’t met to make its decision in relation to that but if I look across the state at the moment we are in a very strong position,” he said.
The Omicron COVID-19 has peaked in New South Wales with case numbers significantly reducing and hospitalisations and ICU presentations not exploding as was feared during the recent holiday period.
QR check-ins were dumped in Queensland this week and New South Wales will almost certainly follow suit given they’re no longer used for contact tracing and the Premier has admitted the requirement remains in place as a “confidence” measure only.
Business Western Sydney Executive Director David Borger agrees that it’s time to get people back to the office.
“We need a roadmap for when masks can come off in offices and when Public Service workers will return to their offices,” Mr Borger said.
“The Government needs to take the lead in bringing their staff back to their desks. Our kids are back at their school desks now, if we are OK with kids being back in the classroom, why not workers in offices? The sooner we have certainty, the sooner our cafes, restaurants and shops will have more customers gracing their doors.”
Opposition Leader Chris Minns warns we’re not “out of the woods” yet, and has urged the government to take on all advice from health officials, especially as the winter flu season nears.
“Everybody is hopeful that the Omicron wave has peaked and that we can expect to see a decreasing rate of infections and a decreasing number of those who are being hospitalised,” he said.
“But Chief Health Officer has warned us in New South Wales that there will be different variants of the COVID disease as it moves through the world and in New South Wales and of course, the ACT as well. So we need to be prepared about future waves, making sure that our public hospital system is fully resourced and we can get through difficult periods.”
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.