Jacinda does not want New Zealanders to know this. There has been a deafening SILENCE in the New Zealand media.
Mask mandate is OVER: Huge shift in Covid rules as QR codes and WFH are SCRAPPED in NSW and dancefloors opened – as Victoria announces similar shift signalling END of the Omicron wave
- NSW Premier announces QR codes and working from home to be scrapped
- Indoor mask rules to be significantly lifted from February 25 across the state
- Comes as Victoria’s Daniel Andrews announces a major shift in restrictions
The changes coincides with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ axing of some of Australia’s most-hated Covid restrictions from 6pm on Friday.
Mr Andrews did not announce a change in indoor mask rules, but said he hoped masks will not be necessary from next week.
From February 25, masks would only be compulsory in NSW on public transport, planes and indoors in airports, hospitals, aged-care facilities, correctional facilities and music festivals with more than 1,000 people.
Festivals will no longer be capped at 20,000 attendees, with singing and dancing permitted from February 25.
Meanwhile, from Monday, February 21, the length of quarantine for unvaccinated international arrivals will be slashed from 14 to seven days.
Elective surgeries will return in metropolitan hospitals from Monday after being momentarily paused to relieve pressure on the health care system.
The premier said he would work towards bringing workers back to their offices over the next week and urged employers to do the same.
He said the move to ease restrictions was possible because of ‘the efforts people have made across the state’.
Nearly half of NSW’s population aged 16 and over have received their third dose of a Covid vaccine.
‘These changes are measured and proportionate to the circumstances we find ourselves in and are particularly due can I say to the efforts of everybody across our state,’ the premier said.
‘Can I say where we were sitting when we brought out those scenarios in our health system and the capacity within our health system, we are tracking incredibly well.’
Mr Andrews also declared almost all the rules introduced in December and January to combat the Omicron wave will be dumped from Friday.
The two premiers have been coordinating their Covid approach in recent months, leaving behind acrimony between their governments during much of the pandemic.
Masks in Melbourne will remain compulsory indoors for now but Health Minister Martin Foley said he was ‘confident’ about relaxing this in the coming days.
Hospitality indoor density limits capping patrons at one per two square metres will be scrapped and dance floors reopened.
Mr Andrews said the booster vaccine rate for over-15s was just 12.7 per cent when density rules were introduced on January 6, compared to 52.2 per cent today.
When the dance-floor closure was announced on January 10, 818 Victorians were in hospital with Covid-19, compared to 401 on Thursday.
‘This is exactly what we said we would do,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Thursday. ‘We would have rules on for not a moment longer than they were needed.’
In Victoria, QR code check-ins, including vaccine requirements, will be abolished for shops, schools, and staff at ‘many workplaces’.
However, they will still be required at hospitality and entertainment venues despite contact tracing not being rigorously conducted.
Mr Andrews said the main reason QR codes would remain in those settings was to keep unvaccinated Victorians out.
The premier said that even though health officials weren’t tracking people’s movements at the moment, ‘that doesn’t mean we won’t contact trace in the future’.
‘But, utimately, it’s just the simplest and easiest thing to do to validate that you are vaccinated and that you are allowed to be at the pub or in the restaurant,’ he said.
‘If it’s a (vaccinated) economy setting (where you) have to be vaccinated, then you continue to check in.’
Key industries like meat processing and supply chains where staff were required to be regularly tested for Covid will no longer have to.
‘These mandates will be become recommended-only, reflecting declining community transmission,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘Requirements for hospital worker bubbles will also be removed, but health services may still implement them at their discretion.’
International travellers will no longer need an arrivals permit through Service Victoria and unvaccinated passengers only need to do seven days of hotel quarantine.
Health Minister Martin Foley will ‘consider’ removing the recommendation for Victorians to work from home, and allowing office workers to remove masks.
‘I am confident that you will see us here again next week, confirming the arrangements around masks,’ he said.
Mr Andrews said he hoped Victorians would be back in the office by next Friday, and all public service staff would be working at least three days a week.
From February 25, face masks will be scrapped in all indoor settings, apart from public transport and a few other exceptions including hospitals (pictured, a venue in Sydney)
NSW and Victoria have coordinated their Covid response after premier Dominic Perrottet ascended to the top job last year (pictured, Sydneysiders swim at Clovelly Beach)
‘We’re confident that we’ll be able to get to a situation next Friday where masks are off in the office and the advice changes… people will then be free and in fact we’ll be encouraging them to go back to the office,’ he told reporters.
‘We always said these measures wouldn’t be in place for a minute longer than they are needed, and with hospitalisation numbers decreasing and less pressure on our health system, now is a sensible time to make changes,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘We’re grateful to everyone who has been doing the right thing, helping to reduce the impact of this virus on the community, our healthcare system and our economy.’
He warned restrictions could be brought back in if a new variant emerged, which was a significant possibility.
Mr Foley said abandoning check-in for shops and schools would allow health staff to focus on the highest-risk settings most likely to generate super-spreader events.
His NSW counterpart Dr Kerry Chant (pictured on Thursday) said it was time to talk about what Covid would look like in 2022 with the state to prepare and plan for new variants
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said 2022 would be a year of ‘recalibration’ with the state to begin to prepare and plan for new variants.
Dr Chant said people should expect the rollout of additional doses of the vaccine with new outbreaks likely as immunity from infections and vaccines wane.
‘There will likely be further wave of Covid as vaccine and infection-derived immunity wanes,’ she said. ‘We need to be clear about this. Even in the context of no new variants emerging, we can expect further waves.’
‘At the moment, we’ve seen a stabilisation of numbers with slowly declining hospital and ICU admissions.’
The top doctor will take her longest break since the pandemic began as the state plans to lift the bulk of its Covid restrictions by the end of the month.
NSW recorded 9,995 new cases on Thursday, as Victoria detected 8,501 infections.