To deal with the public health risk of COVID-19 and its possible consequences, the Minister for Health and Medical Research has made a number of Orders, under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010. Orders can be amended frequently. For the most up to date orders, and the history of each order, visit NSW Legislation - COVID-related legislation.

For help in understanding the public health orders, refer to NSW Government: What you can and can't do under the rules and Industry guidelines for COVID Safe workplaces or NSW Health - Directions under the Public Health Act (Easy read)

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Interstate travellers

The Public Health (COVID-19 Interstate Travellers) Order (No 2) 2021 allows for a risk based approach to responding to risks relating to COVID-19 that arise in different jurisdictions.

The Order allows the Chief Health Officer to designate 3 different interstate zones in a COVID-19 concerns notice:

  • affected areas – persons entering NSW who have been in an affected area in the previous 14 days must complete a traveller's declaration
  • areas of concern – persons who have been to an area of concern in the previous 14 days must only leave home with a reasonable excuse
  • places of high concern– can be either a 'close' or 'casual' contact place.
  • A person who is not a NSW resident cannot enter NSW if they have been to a close contact place.
  • A person who has been to a casual contact place is permitted to enter NSW only if they have had a negative COVID-19 test result, after they have become a casual contact.
  • A person in NSW who has been to a close contact place must self-isolate for a full 14 days since the time and date listed in the notice of concerns.
  • A person in NSW who has been to a casual contact place, must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result for COVID-19, taken after they have been to the venue at the date and time listed.
  • There are provisions to allow a resident of the ACT to transit through NSW to directly return to the ACT.

If a COVID-19 concerns notice is in effect, details can be found on the NSW Government website.

COVID-19 concerns notice

The Chief Health Officer can make a COVID-19 concerns notice which sets out any:

  • affected areas
  • areas of concerns
  • places of high concern. 

There is a current COVID-19 concerns notice in effect that sets out the affected area and places of high concern. For information about the current COVID-19 concerns notice, visit the NSW Government website.

An exemption is in place so that a NSW border region resident does not have to complete a declaration if they are only travelling within the border region.

Affected areas

  • The COVID-19 concerns notice can designate a place outside of NSW as an "affected area".
  • People over 16 years of age who enter NSW and who have been in an affected area in the previous 14 days must complete a traveller self-declaration form within the 24-hour period prior to entering, or on entering NSW. The contact information collected on this form will be used for contact tracing, if required.
  • The COVID-19 concerns notice may also designate the relevant points of entry, such as entry by rail or entry by air. If relevant entry points are designated then people using these entry points must complete the declaration. If no relevant entry points are designated, then all persons entering NSW who have been in an affected area in the previous 14 days, regardless of their mode of transport, must complete the declaration.

Areas of concern

  • The COVID-19 concerns notice can designate a place outside of NSW as an "area of concern".
  • If an area of concern has been designated, then a person who has been in the area of concern in the last 14 days, and after the date specified in the COVID-19 concerns notice, must only leave home with a reasonable excuse.

Places of high concern

The COVID-19 concerns notice can designate places outside of NSW or transport routes as a "place of high concern" and will specify whether they are close or casual places of high concern.

Close contact places

  • A person who has been to a close contact place of high concern at the time specified in the notice and is not usually a resident of NSW, must not enter NSW.
  • A person in NSW that has been to a place of high concern at the time specified in the notice, must immediately travel to their residence and self-isolate for 14 days since they were last at the place of high concern. While travelling to the residence, they must comply with the Interstate Traveller Guidelines.

Self-isolation means:

  • you cannot leave your residence / accommodation unless you are seeking medical treatment, or it is an emergency
  • you cannot permit someone to enter the premises unless the person usually lives at the residence
  • while self-isolating, you must comply with the NSW Health COVID-19 self-isolation guideline.

Casual contact places

  • A person who has been to a casual contact place of high concern at the time specified in the notice must not enter NSW unless:
    • they are a NSW resident, or
    • they have been tested for COVID-19 after being at the place of high concern, and received a negative result.
  • A person in NSW that has been to a casual contact place of high concern at the time specified in the notice, must immediately travel to their residence and self-isolate until they return a negative COVID-19 test result. While travelling to the residence, the they must comply with the Interstate Traveller Guidelines.
  • A casual contact must retain a copy of their negative test result.

Residents of the ACT

A person who is a resident of the ACT and has been to a place of high concern at the time specified in the notice, can enter NSW for the purpose of transiting to the ACT. In such a case, they must travel by the most practicable direct route and comply with the Interstate Traveller Guidelines while in NSW.

Mandatory face coverings

Public Health (COVID-19 mandatory face coverings) Order (No 2) commenced on 6 May 2021.

The Order directs that a person must wear a mask while at the airport or on a plane, and on domestic commercial aircraft that land at, or take off from, a NSW airport while in NSW.

The Order defines “fitted face covering” to mean a mask or other covering that: (a) fits securely around the face, and (b) is designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection.

The Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order (No 2) Amendment Order 2021 commenced at 4pm on 18 June 2021.

The Amending Order:

  • Requires a person on public transport in Greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains (not inclusive of Wollongong and the Central Coast) to wear a mask. Public transport includes hire vehicles. This requirement will be repealed on 24 June 2021.  
  • Includes an obligation on employers of airport staff at an airport to ensure that their staff wear a mask as required under the Order.

People are not required to wear masks if they:

  • are children aged 12 or under
  • experience a physical or mental illness, condition or disability that makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable, for example a skin condition, an intellectual disability, autism or trauma.

A person may remove a mask if they are:

  • eating or drinking
  • communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • at work and the nature of the work makes wearing a mask a risk to the person’s, or another persons’, health and safety, or means clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth is essential
  • asked to remove their mask to confirm their identity
  • involved in an emergency.

Penalties of $200 will apply for not wearing a mask.

An exemption is in place on commercial aircrafts and in NSW airports for flight crew and airport workers such as an engineer or other technical staff, and a range of other activities in connection with an aircraft, where they are not interacting directly with passengers.

Spitting and coughing

Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order (No 2) 2021 directs that a person must not intentionally spit at or cough on public officials or other workers in a way that is reasonably likely to cause fear about the spread of COVID-19.

The Order commenced on 28 May 2021 and revokes the Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order 2021.

The Order is supported by an amendment to the Public Health Regulation which makes a breach of this Order a penalty notice offence with an on-the-spot fine of $5000.

Gathering restrictions

The Public Health (COVID-19 Gathering Restrictions) Order (No 2) 2021 commenced on 2 June 2021 and contains directions on gatherings, and the number of persons allowed on non-residential and residential premises. The Order requires certain premises and events to have a COVID-19 safety plan that addresses the matters in a checklist approved by the Chief Health Officer.

These restrictions apply across all of NSW:

  • Residential premises: There is no limit on visitors to residential premises. However, if there are more than 100 visitors, an adult member of the household must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety plan and record visitor details electronically.
  • Residential aged care facilities: Operators of aged care facilities are required to consider the advice of the Chief Health Officer in relation to:
    • management of visitors
    • screening of staff and visitors
    • arrangements for group recreation and other activities for residents
    • wearing of face masks by staff and visitors
    • vaccinations against influenza and COVID-19
  • Non-residential premises: Most venues must comply with the 1 person per 2 square metre rule. Venues are allowed to have 25 people on the premises, before the 2 square metre rule applies. The occupier of the premises must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Entertainment facilities and major recreation facilities (indoor and outdoor): These venues can have a maximum of the greater of one person per 2 square metres of space or 100% fixed seated capacity (and 1 person per 2 square metres in any unfixed seating area outdoors). The occupier of the premises must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Significant events: There are no caps on weddings or funerals or gatherings after a wedding or a funeral but venues must comply with the 2 square metre rule. The responsible person must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Singing and dancing: There are no restrictions on singing, including at places of worship. There are no restrictions on dancing, including at weddings and in pubs and nightclubs
  • Agricultural shows and agricultural field days: These events can have 1 person per 2 square metres of space. If there are more than 200 persons, the responsible person for a must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Non-controlled outdoor public gatherings (up to 200): These events are restricted to 200 people (unless the gathering is a COVID-19 safe outdoor gathering with a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • COVID-19 safe outdoor gathering (up to 5,000): These events can have the lesser of 1 person per 2 square metres of space or 5,000 persons and do not need to be seated or enclosed by fencing and do not have a time limit. The organiser must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Controlled outdoor public gatherings (up to 10,000): A ticketed and seated COVID-19 safe outdoor gathering can have the maximum of the lesser of 1 person per 2 square metres of space or 10,000 persons. The event must be enclosed by fencing or another barrier. The organiser must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Lord Howe Island: An owner or operator of a short-term rental, or of tourist and visitor accommodation, on Lord Howe Island must have and comply with the relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Record keeping: Premises and events must ensure that contact details of persons are collected.
Please visit What you can do for further information on COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

Exemptions and approvals

The Minister may, in writing and subject to the conditions the Minister considers appropriate, grant an exemption to this Order or specified provisions of this Order.

Any request for exemption to the Order will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.

An exemption is in place to allow up to 50 persons at a place of public worship, a funeral home, a cemetery or crematorium if there is insufficient space to ensure at least 2 square metres of space per person for a funeral or memorial service, or a gathering immediately after a funeral or memorial service

An exemption is in place concerning organised groups (schools, child care, aged care, or disability groups) providing contact details at specified premises, subject to specific conditions.

An exemption is in place to allow school special events to be held on school premises under specific conditions.

An exemption is in place concerning providing contact details at stadiums, subject to specific conditions.

An exemption is in place to exempt people participating in an education program held at a place of worship from the 2 square metre rule, subject to the conditions outlined in the exemption.

Quarantine requirements

On 12 May 2021, the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation and Maritime Quarantine) Amendment Order 2021 was made to change the definition of a quarantine period. Prior to this, the quarantine period started when a person arrived in NSW by air or sea, and ended when either 24 days had passed, or 14 days had passed provided the person had complied with all testing requirements.

The Order has been amended so that the quarantine period now only ends after 14 days if the person:

  • has complied with all COVID-19 testing requirements, and do not pose a risk of infecting any other person, and
  • 2 days after leaving the quarantine facility or medical facility, will be tested for COVID-19.

If the Chief Health Officer, or delegate, is not satisfied that the person will be tested for COVID-19 2 days after leaving quarantine, the person will be required to continue to complete the full 24-day quarantine period.

The person will not have to self-isolate while waiting for the results of their COVID-19 test taken 2 days after they leave quarantine, unless they are symptomatic.

Any person who is unable to be tested 2 days after leaving quarantine may be allowed to be tested at a later date, provided that a relevant practitioner is satisfied that:

  • the reason for not being tested is due to circumstances beyond the person's control, and
  • the person will be tested as soon as possible after the 2 days.

This applies to people who have arrived in NSW by air or arrived in NSW by sea.

A similar exemption is in place for declared flight crew who are self-isolating at their residence. Declared flight crew can leave self-isolation 14 days after arriving in Australia if a relevant practitioner considers that the person:

  • has complied with all COVID-19 testing requirements and does not pose a risk of infecting any other person, and
  • 2 days after leaving self-isolation, will be tested for COVID-19 unless:
    • the reason for not being tested is due to circumstances beyond the person's control and the person will be tested as soon as reasonably practicable, or
    • the flight crew member will be leaving Australia

The exemption does not impact on the current ability of flight crew member to leave quarantine or self-isolation before their quarantine period has ended to fly out of Australia.

Air transportation quarantine and testing

The Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021 (the Order) commenced on 7 June 2021.

The Order revokes and remakes the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order 2021.

Quarantine requirements

  • Relevant persons must undertake mandatory quarantine in a quarantine or medical facility. A relevant person is a person who arrives in NSW by aircraft who:
    • has been in a country other than Australia or New Zealand 14 days before arrival, or
    • arrives from New Zealand and another person on the aircraft has been in a country other than Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands or Niue in the previous 14 days.
  • If a person who arrives in NSW by land and who in the previous 14 days has been to a country other than Australia or New Zealand, and the Chief Health Officer considers them to be a risk, the person must go to a quarantine or medical facility determined by the Chief Health Officer and remain there for the quarantine period.
  • People in quarantine must comply with any determination of the NSW Police Commissioner in relation to their transit at the airport and to the quarantine facility
  • The quarantine period starts when the person arrives in NSW (day 0) and ends:
    • When at least 14 full days have passed, and the Chief Health is satisfied that the person does not pose a risk of infecting another person with COVID-19, or
    • After 24 day
      For a person in a quarantine or medical facility, the quarantine period can only end after 14 days if the Chief Health Officer is satisfied that they will be tested for COVID-19 on day 16 (2 days after leaving the facility), or, if they cannot be tested due to circumstances beyond their control, that they will be tested as soon as practicable after leaving the facility.
  • A person cannot leave the quarantine facility during the quarantine period except in limited cases, including in an emergency. If a person leaves a quarantine facility because of an emergency they must comply with directions of the Commissioner of Police.
  • People entering a quarantine facility must provide their contact details using the Service NSW app. This will assist in contact tracing if there is a COVID-19 case associated with the facility.

Directions and information for International Flight Crew

The Order makes different directions for flight crew:

  • Flight crew who are not NSW or Australian residents must go into quarantine when they arrive into NSW.  However, they can leave to fly out of Australia provided they are tested on arrival in NSW for COVID-19 and comply with any other testing request of the Chief Health Officer.
  • NSW residents can self-isolate at home if they are a "declared flight crew member." This means that they have been tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving the airport and have provided their contact details and a declaration. They must comply with the NSW Health Air Transportation Guidelines  Declared flight crew members can leave self-isolation to fly out of Australia if they have complied with any testing request of the Chief Health Officer. During the quarantine period, a declared flight crew member may leave self-isolation to undertake essential flight duties (such as safety or security training or flight simulation)
  • Interstate flight crew can leave NSW to go home using suitable transport if they have been tested prior to leaving the airport, and have provided a declaration. The crew member must comply with the Onward Domestic Travel of International Aircrew Guidelines.
  • Employers of declared flight crew members must arrange employee transportation to and from an employee's residence or accommodation, and ensure compliance with the NSW Health Air Transportation Guidelines.
  • A class exemption is in place for quick turnaround flights. Certain flights where the flight crew do not leave the plane may be exempt from the requirement to be tested on arrival, subject to conditions which are specified in the exemption.

For more information visit flight crew quarantine and self-isolation requirements.COVID-19 testing for international flight crew: frequently asked questions provides further information about COVID-19 testing of flight crew and management of results.

New Zealand arrivals

Provided there are no risks and there are no New Zealand COVID-19 hotspots, passengers from New Zealand do not need to quarantine if:

  • They have not been in a country other than Australia or New Zealand in the 14 days before the arrival, and
  • They, and people on their flight, have only been in Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands or Niue in the 14 days prior to arrival
  • They have completed an Australian Traveller Declaration form (ATD)

If the Chief Health Officer declares an area of New Zealand as a COVID-19 hotspot then a person arriving from that area must either immediately leave Australia or go into quarantine.

Travellers from New Zealand, may be screened on arrival. If assessed as posing an unacceptable risk of transmission of COVID-19, a passenger may be directed to quarantine.

If a person has been in the Cook Islands

People who are travelling from New Zealand who have been in the Cook Islands or Niue in the previous 14 days should be aware that there is no quarantine-free travel arrangement with NSW and the Cook Islands or Niue.

Mandatory quarantine is still required for people who have been in the Cook Islands or Niue in the 14 days prior to their arrival in NSW.

People who travel to New Zealand from the Cook Islands or Niue should remain in New Zealand for at least 14 days before travelling on to NSW in order to avoid being required to enter quarantine on arrival.

NSW Testing Program

The Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021 requires staff working at the airport and in quarantine facilities to comply with the NSW Testing Program for COVID-19.

The NSW quarantine worker surveillance and testing program sets out when different categories of worker must be tested.

The testing program currently includes:

  • Designated quarantine facility workers
  • Designated transportation providers
  • Designated airport workers

Unaccompanied minors

All unaccompanied minors must quarantine in a government quarantine facility.

For further information, see the fact sheet for parents and guardians of unaccompanied minors arriving from overseas or contact the NSW Health Quarantine Exemptions Unit at MOH-COVID19-Quarantine@health.nsw.gov.au or on 1300 288 222.

Maritime quarantine

The Public Health (COVID-19 Maritime Quarantine) Order (No 2) 2021 sets conditions on persons who arrive in NSW by vessel (the order does not apply to vessels originating in Australia, that have not stopped at a port outside of Australia, and where each person boarded the vessel in Australia, and no one on the vessel has been outside of Australia or New Zealand in the previous 14 days).

Conditions include:

  • a person who arrives in NSW from overseas on a vessel must not disembark unless the person:
    • is authorised to do so by the Commissioner of Police
    • disembarks for the purpose of undertaking an essential task (for example unloading cargo)
    • is required to do so because of an emergency
  • a relevant person who is authorised to disembark from a vessel must do one of the following as directed by the Commissioner of Police:
    • go directly to a quarantine facility
    • go directly to a hospital or medical facility for treatment
    • go directly to an airport or another vessel in order to immediately leave Australia, including via a vessel or flight that stops in another state or territory
  • the occupier of a wharf at which a vessel is docked. and the master of the vessel that is docked at the wharf. must develop and comply with a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • Crew disembarking the vessel to undertake essential tasks, as well as persons permitted to board a vessel must comply with the NSW Health Guideline: Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for Maritime Workers in relation to personal protective equipement.
  • People boarding a vessel will be required to provide their contact details to the occupier of the wharf using the Service NSW app.
  • The occupier of a wharf must provide the contact details of any one who boarded a vessel to NSW Health within 4 hours of requesting the information.

See information on exemptions for air and maritime quarantine.

Self-isolation

The Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 2) 2021 requires persons diagnosed with COVID-19 and close contacts of persons diagnosed with COVID-19 to self-isolate and specifies requirements for self-isolation including duration and location.

On 11 June 2021 the Minister made the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 2) 2021 which repeals and remakes the directions in the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order 2021.

Any requirement to quarantine under the previous Order continues under the new Order.

The Order requires compliance with the NSW Health self isolation guidelines, which may change from time to time.

The Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 2) 2021 allows an authorised medical practitioner to direct a close contact of a COVID case to:

  • be tested for COVID-19 and provide details of the date, time and location of any test undertaken, or
  • continue their self-isolation period for a further period for a further period up to 10 days.

Penalties for breaching the Public Health Orders

It is an offence to not comply with a public health order and the following penalties can apply:

  • a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 6 months and/or a penalty of up to $11,000
  • plus a further $5,500 fine each day the offence continues.

Corporations that fail to comply with a direction are liable to:

  • a fine of $55,000
  • plus a further $27,500 fine each day the offence continues.

On the spot fines can also be issued:

  • $4,000 for a breach of clause 6 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Border Control) Order 2020 - failing to provide or falsifying information to an enforcement officer
  • $5000 for a breach of the Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order (No 2) 2020
  • $1,000 in other cases.

Requesting exemptions

Current as at: Friday 18 June 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW