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.

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.

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.

On Sunday 9 May 2021, the Order was amended to make masks mandatory at places in Greater Sydney (including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong):

  • for staff at retail premises, business premises and hospitality venues, except those who do not deal with members of the public
  • gaming areas
  • entertainment facilities
  • places of public worship
  • public transport.

The exemptions in the Public Health (COVID-19 mandatory face coverings) Order (No 2) will continue in place. In addition, any non-public facing roles will not have to wear a mask.

Exemptions

An exemption has been signed to permit singing or chanting at a place of public worship by an individual who is integral to the religious service and by an exempt group of up to five singers or chanters.

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.

An exemption is in place for people attending and participating in a wedding service held at a place of public worship in the Greater Sydney Region.

Spitting and coughing

Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order 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 12 March 2021 and revokes the Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order (No 4) 2020.

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

Greater Sydney

The Public Health (COVID-19 Greater Sydney) Order 2021 commenced at 11:59pm Sunday 9 May 2021.

The Order makes directions for Greater Sydney (including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong) that:

  • singing will not be permitted in indoor areas of non-residential premises unless:
    • the singers are performers
    • the singing takes place in a school or educational facility
    • the singing takes place as part of teaching or instruction
  • in hospitality premises, including nightclubs:
    • stand up drinking in indoor areas will be prohibited
    • dancing will not be permitted in indoor premises, unless it is related to a wedding or part of a performance. NSW Health recommends that dancing should be limited to 20 persons.
  • visitors to places of residence will be limited to 20 persons (with a number of exemptions, such as persons engaged in work, childcare and emergencies)
  • holiday homes will be limited to 20 persons (unless all from the same household) or the holiday home was being used before the order commenced.

An exemption has been signed to permit singing or chanting at a place of public worship by an individual who is integral to the religious service and by an exempt group of up to five singers or chanters.

An exemption is in place to allow a wedding or funeral service or a gathering following a wedding or funeral service to be held outdoors at a place of residence.

An exemption is in place to allow a wedding or funeral service or a gathering following a wedding or funeral service to be held outdoors at a holiday home or short-term rental.

The Order will be automatically repealed at 12:01am on Monday 17 May.

Public Health (COVID-19 Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 commenced on 29 March 2021 (with amendments commencing 30 March 2021, 9 April and 3 May 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 must 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 that does not last longer than 5 hours 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 controlled outdoor public gatherings that last longer than 5 hours, subject to specific conditions.

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

Air transportation quarantine and testing

The Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 1) 2021 requires people who arrive in NSW by aircraft and who have been in countries other than Australia or New Zealand in the 14 days before their arrival to undertake mandatory quarantine in a quarantine/medical facility. This Order commenced on 11 March 2021.

The new Order revokes the Public Health (COVID-19 Air transportation) Order (No 4) 2020 and remakes the existing restrictions.

Additionally the new Order:

  • requires all persons, passengers and crew, arriving from New Zealand to provide their contact details and details about their movements in the previous 14 days (for contact tracing and to ensure they have not been outside of Australia or New Zealand)
  • enables declared flight crew and interstate flight crew to elect to either go to a quarantine facility or their place of residence to self-isolate (on occasions it is more appropriate for declared flight crew to go into quarantine (e.g. if they have an immune-compromised relative at home). If the crew member so elects, they will be subject to the normal requirements relating to quarantine for flight crew
  • clarifies that relevant flight crew must comply with the NSW Health Air Transportation Guidelines during the entire quarantine period
  • requires a person entering a quarantine facility to provide their details using the Service NSW app (which will assist in contract tracing)
  • requires interstate flight crew members to comply with the Onward Domestic Travel of International Aircrew Guidelines
  • expands the definition of a "designated transportation worker" to include a person providing a transportation service for a transportation service for a relevant person to a medical facility.

The new Order includes a new provision that makes clear that a person subject to the Order is also subject to the Public Health (COVID-19 Self Isolation) Order (No 5) 2020 and that the latter order takes precedence in the event of any inconsistency.

New Zealand arrivals

The Chief Health Officer has revoked the notice specifying areas of New Zealand to be a COVID-19 hotspot under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 1) 2021, effective from 12:01am on 18 March 2021.

A person or crew member who arrives in NSW on a "green zone" flight from New Zealand is not required to self isolate or quarantine as long as they are not symptomatic and have completed a declaration form.

A person or crew member who arrives in NSW by aircraft from New Zealand, where another person on the same aircraft has been in a country other than Australia or New Zealand in the 14 days prior to arrival must go to a quarantine facility and 'relevant flight crew members' to either go to a quarantine facility or to self-isolate.

Flight crew quarantine and testing

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 1) 2021:

  • All flight crew may depart Australia prior to the end of the quarantine period if they have undergone COVID-19 testing on arrival to NSW and complied with any other request of the Chief Health Officer for additional testing.
  • Most international flight crew must quarantine in a quarantine facility until the end of the quarantine period, or until their next flight leaving Australia.
  • Flight crew who reside in NSW can self-isolate at their residence if they meet the requirements of being a "declared flight crew member", and must ensure compliance with the Air Transportation Guidelines. Positioning crew are only considered flight crew if they are on the flight manifest, or have provided a letter from their employer indicating that they are flight crew and the date they are due to leave Australia.
  • Flight crew arriving on a flight from New Zealand are required to declare where they have been in the last 14 days. Flight crew who have arrived in NSW on 'green zone flights' are not required to self-isolate or quarantine.
  • Flight crew who live in another Australian State or Territory can travel to their home jurisdiction if they meet appropriate conditions. They must comply with the Onward domestic travel of international aircrew guideline.

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.

These include:

  • no flight crew members may disembark the aircraft, other than the pilot to undertake a pre-flight safety check
  • no person may board the aircraft, other than passengers and essential aircraft servicing staff who must follow certain infection control precautions including wearing a mask and PPE.

COVID-19 testing for international flight crew: frequently asked questions provides further information about COVID-19 testing of flight crew and management of results.

NSW Testing Program

The Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 1) 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.

Testing for designated quarantine facility workers
  • Designated quarantine facility workers carry out functions or provides services in relation to the quarantine facility.
  • Designated quarantine facility workers cannot carry out services at a quarantine facility unless the person has been tested for COVID-19 in accordance with the NSW testing program for that class of workers.
Testing for designated airport workers
  • A designated airport worker is a person who in the course of the person's employment carries out functions or provides services at an airport; and who is specified in the NSW Testing Program.
  • Designated airport workers would not be able to enter/remain at the airport or carry out services in an airport unless the worker was tested for COVID-19.
Testing for designated transportation workers
  • A designated transportation worker is a person provides a transportation service for a relevant person directly to, or directly from, a quarantine facility or medical facility.
  • A designated transportation provider must not provide, or continue to provide, a transportation service unless the provider is tested for COVID-19 in accordance with the requirements set out in the NSW Testing Program.

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 2021 sets conditions on persons who arrive in NSW by vessels (other than vessels originating in Australia, that have not stopped at a port outside of Australia, and each person boarded the vessel in Australia), and their employers. The 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
    • 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 NSW
  • the occupier of a wharf at which a vessel is docked and the master of the vessel that is docked at the wharf must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • specific people are authorised to board, and disembark from, a vessel on which there is a relevant person. The list of authorised persons is provided in the Order.

The Order commenced on 11 March 2021. The Order repeals and remakes the current Maritime Order subject to a minor amendment. The new Order includes a new provision that makes clear that a person subject to the Maritime Order is also subject to the Public Health (COVID-19 Self Isolation) Order (No 5) 2020 and that the latter order takes precedence in the event of any inconsistency.

See information on exemptions for air and maritime quarantine.

Self-isolation

The Public Health (COVID-19 Self Isolation) Order 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 18 March 2021 the Minister made the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order 2021 which repeals and remakes the directions in the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 5) 2020.

The new Order makes it clear that the Self-Isolation Order 2021 applies in the event of any inconsistency with the Public Health (COVID-19 Maritime Quarantine) Order 2021 or the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order 2021.

Any requirement to quarantine under the No 5 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 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.

Residential Aged Care Facilities

The Public Health (COVID-19 Aged Care Facilities) Order (No 4) 2020 was repealed from 12:01am 11 March 2021. Residential aged care facilities are now required to consider the advice of the Chief Health Officer in their visitor and access policies and requirements. Individual operators may choose to implement their own decisions about access restrictions and screening requirements, having regard to the advice of the Chief Health Officer. An amendment to the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order whereby the Minister directs an operator of a residential aged care facility must 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.

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: Wednesday 12 May 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW