Sydney residents have woken to a host of new COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, including the mandatory wearing of face masks as authorities scramble to curb the growing outbreak.
After New South Wales recorded seven new cases of community transmission on Saturday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the time had come to introduce the mandate.
As of midnight Saturday, face masks were made mandatory in some indoor settings in Greater Sydney – including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains.
Sydney residents have a one-day grace period before $200 fines begin to be issued for noncompliance on Monday.
Coverings must now be worn while shopping (retail, supermarkets and shopping centres), while on public or shared transport, at indoor entertainment precincts (including cinemas and theatres), at places of worship and at hair and beauty premises.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement face masks would also be compulsory for staff in hospitality venues and casinos, and for patrons using gaming services.
Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks when possible.
University of New South Wales Professor of Epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws said it was “about time”.
“Masks are an important part of the infection prevention bundle,” she told the Nine Network’s Today show on Sunday morning.
“Making it mandatory takes away the decision making by somebody who may not realise that they have the early phase of COVID, and they can spread it just by breathing out and of course by talking.”
Other new restrictions include gym classes being limited to 30 people, places of worship and religious services being cut to one person per 4 sqm, and weddings and funerals have been capped at 100 people.
Outdoor performances and protests have been reduced to 500 people, and controlled, outdoor gatherings that are seated, ticketed and enclosed have been capped at 2000 people.
Night clubs are not permitted.
While the northern zone of the Northern Beaches remains under strict stay-at-home-orders, the southern zone joins the rest of Greater Sydney where authorities are advising residents to limit non-essential gatherings.
“People are still encouraged to reduce their mobility where possible to further minimise the risk of transmission in the community,” a NSW Health statement said.
“We thank the community for their patience and understanding. Our priority is always to protect the health and safety of the community.”