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 2021 allows the Chief Health Officer to identify places outside New South Wales as places of concern. A person who has been in a place of concern within the previous 14 days is required to remain in their place of residence or other suitable accommodation, and not leave without a reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuses are identified in Schedule 1 of the Order.

The Order manages the ongoing risk of the introduction of COVID-19 into NSW from interstate and commenced at 12.01am on Friday 5 February.

The Minister has signed the Public Health (COVID-19 Interstate Travellers) Amendment Order 2021. The changes in the Amending Order commence at the beginning of 13 February 2021.

The Amending Order:

  • Clarifies that the requirement on persons to fill out a declaration if they enter from an affected area via a relevant entry point applies if the person has been in an affected area in the previous 14 days (the affected areas are set out in a COVID-19 concerns notice issued by the Chief Health Officer and published on the NSW Health website).
  • States that a “relevant person” must only leave their residence with a reasonable excuse. A relevant person is a person who has been in “a place of concern” in the previous 14 days. A place of concern is an area outside of NSW in a COVID-19 concerns notice (issued by the Chief Health Officer and published on the NSW Health website).

Affected areas

  • People over 16 years of age who enter NSW from an "affected area" at a "relevant point of entry" will be required to complete a traveller self-declaration form. Contact information will be used for contact tracing, if required.
  • An affected area means a State or Territory, or part of a State or Territory, identified as an affected area in a "COVID-19 concerns notice", which is a notice made by the NSW Chief Health Officer. The "COVID-19 concerns notice" will also designate the relevant points of entry, such as entry by rail or entry by air.

Place of high concern

  • People who have been in a "place of high concern" during the time specified in a "COVID-19 concerns notice" identifying the place of high concern must not enter NSW unless they are a NSW resident.
  • A "place of high concern" is an area or place outside NSW identified by the NSW Chief Health Officer as a place of high concern in a "COVID-19 concern notice"
  • Anyone in NSW who has been in a "place of high concern" during the time specified in the "COVID-19 concerns notice" must self-isolate as though they are a close contact in line with the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 5) 2020. They must also comply with the Interstate Traveller Guidelines when arriving in NSW.

COVID-19 concerns notice

The NSW Chief Health Officer made a COVID-19 concerns notice that took effect on 26 February 2021. The concerns notice revokes all previous COVID-19 concerns notices meaning:

  • Victoria is not an affected area. There is no requirement for people entering NSW from Victoria by air or train to provide a declaration
  • there are no places of high concern in Victoria. There is no requirement for people entering NSW from Victoria to self-isolate, unless directed by a NSW Health official.

Western Australia

The Public Health (COVID-19 Western Australia) Repeal Order 2021 repeals the Public Health (COVID-19 Western Australia) Order. This Order commences at 9pm on 5 February 2021.

The repeal of the Order means that from 9pm on 5 February 2021:

  • there is no requirement to provide a declaration when a person enters NSW from WA, and
  • there is no obligation for anyone from WA to follow a stay at home direction.

Mandatory face coverings

On 12 February the Minister signed the Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Amendment (No 4) Order 2021 (Amending Order).

The Amending Order amends the Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order 2021 to only require a mask to be worn:

  • on public transport (including taxis and ride share) and public transport waiting areas in Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and the Central Coast)
  • at airports
  • 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, or
  • 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

Masks can also be removed for the provision of goods or services where the mask will get in the way, for example facials and beard trims.

Penalties of $200 will apply for not wearing a mask. There are also penalties for hospitality venue operators who fail to ensure their staff wear masks as required: $1,000 for an individual and $5,000 for a corporate operator.

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 concerning places of public worship in Greater Sydney being used for wedding services whereby, you do not need to wear a mask at a wedding service if you are the persons being married or the persons “necessary for the conduct of, or assisting in the conduct of” the wedding service.

An exemption is in place, stating that a person is not required to wear a mask if they:

  • are at premises, at a public transport waiting area, or in a vehicle for the purposes their employment or engagement and
  • are not interacting directly with members of the public.

Spitting and coughing

Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order (No 4) 2020 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 (No 4) commenced on 17 December 2020 and repeals and remakes the Public Health (COVID-19 Spitting and Coughing) Order (No 3). The original order commenced 9 April 2020.

Gathering and movement

The Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2021commenced on 26 February 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.

The following restrictions apply across all of NSW:

  • People cannot allow more than 50 visitors at any one time at their residence, including children. NSW Health recommends a maximum 30 visitors if the place of residence does not have any outdoor space.
  • The limit on people at holiday homes or short-term rentals is no more than 50 people, unless everyone is from the same household.
  • Generally, all indoor premises are restricted to one person per 2 square metres. For small venues, up to 25 patrons are permitted before the 2 square metre rule applies.
  • Gyms must have at least 4 square metres of space for each person. Gym classes and activities are restricted to 50 persons.
  • Dance floors are not permitted in certain premises, with the exception of weddings where 30 people are allowed to dance at any one time;
  • There are requirements for gyms and hospitality venues to have COVID-19 safety marshals.
  • Up to 3,000 people can gather for community sport (subject to the square metre rule for the premises).
  • Up to 30 people may sing in an indoor area. In a place of public worship, members of the congregation may sing subject to the 4 square metre rule and everyone in the area wearing a face mask.
  • Agricultural shows and field days have no upper limit of people allowed on the premises, but are restricted by the square metre rule for the premises.
  • All hospitality venues (including pubs, clubs and restaurants) and hairdressing salons are required to use the Service NSW app to register customer check-ins. Where there are unexpected circumstances such that details cannot be provided electronically, they can be provided directly to the occupier.

Additional restrictions apply across the Greater Sydney Region (including the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and Wollongong):

  • The visitor limit of 50 applies to weddings, funerals, memorial services (or a gathering after these services) held at a place of residence. The visitor limit does not apply in certain circumstances including where someone is engaged in work or providing care and assistance and for a gathering for an auction or viewing of the property.
  • Weddings, funerals, and memorial services (or a gathering after these services) are restricted to 300 persons, subject to the 2 square metre rule.
  • Outdoor public gatherings are restricted to 50 people.
  • Premises must not be used as a nightclub.
  • The occupier of a holiday let or short stay rental cannot allow more than 50 persons on the premises.
  • Outdoor rehearsal and performance is restricted to a maximum of 500 participants, subject to the 2 square metre rule.
  • Outdoor protests or demonstrations are restricted to 500 persons.
  • Controlled outdoor events may have, subject to the 1 person per 2 square metre rule, 500 people (if people are assigned to a seating area) or 2,000 people (if people are assigned to a specific seat).

Restrictions apply to a range of premises and activities in NSW (excluding the Greater Sydney region) including:

  • At residential premises, the visitor limit of 50 does not apply to weddings, funerals, memorial services (or a gathering after these services) or a gathering for an auction or viewing of the property.
  • Outdoor public gatherings are restricted to 100 people.
  • Nightclubs must have at least 4 square metres of space for each person
  • There is no upper limit on the number of people at weddings, funerals and religious services. Premises must comply with the 'one person per 2 square metre rule' and have an appropriate COVID-19 safety plan.
  • Outdoor rehearsals and performances are restricted to a maximum of 3000 participants, subject to the 2 square metre rule. Controlled outdoor events may have, subject to the 1 person per 2 square metre rule, 500 people (if people are assigned to a seating area) or 2,000 people (if people are assigned to a specific seat).

Exemptions

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

An exemption is in place to allow an exempt school performance to have more than 30 students singing, subject to specific conditions. 

An exemption is in place to allow any outdoor ANZAC Day march or service held outside Greater Sydney between 18 and 25 April to have a maximum of 3,000 persons, subject to one person per 2 square metres of space.

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 concerning visitors to businesses run out of residential premises in Greater Sydney whereby a person is not considered to be a visitor to a place of residence if they are there to attend the business.

An exemption is in place to allow an exempt performance to have more than 30 singers, subject to specific conditions. An exempt performance is a performance or rehearsal where the organiser has responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Performance organisations with at least one person who is employed or in receipt of remuneration are considered workplaces and are subject to work health and safety legislation. Any person conducting a business or undertaking has responsibilities under work health and safety legislation and is required to consult with others to manage the risk.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

The Public Health (COVID-19 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Arrangements) Order 2021 establishes a mapped declared zone in which police officers will have the power to request a person in a public place leave the zone for the purposes of managing potential impromptu gatherings and over-crowding in public places. A person can comply with the request by returning to their home, another person’s home or returning to their place of work if they are working within the area – or otherwise by leaving the declared zone.

The Order will commence at 12pm on 6 March and end at 6am on 7 March 2021.

Quarantine

Air transportation quarantine and testing

The Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2020 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.

New Zealand Arrivals

The Chief Health Officer has made a notice specifying areas of New Zealand to be a COVID-19 hotspot under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2020. The notice commences at 12.01am on 25 February 2021.

The following area is now a New Zealand COVID-19 hotspot:

  • Auckland (including Auckland airport)

A person arriving from a New Zealand COVID-19 hotspot must do one of the following:

  • leave Australia if they are not an Australian citizen and it is reasonably practicable to do so, or
  • go directly to a quarantine facility, or
  • if medical treatment is required, go directly to a medical facility for treatment.

Persons arriving from a New Zealand COVID-19 hotspot who do not leave Australia by air will need to remain in a quarantine or medical facility until the end of the quarantine period. They will be required to pay relevant fees for quarantine accommodation.

This requirement applies to flight crew as well as passengers (subject to any previous exemptions granted to the Order that are still in effect). Further information for flight crew can be found on Quarantine and self-isolation information for international flight crew.

The Minister has signed the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) Amendment (New Zealand Arrivals) Order 2021 which amends the definition of a 'relevant person' and 'relevant flight crew member' in the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2021 Order.

A 'relevant person' and 'relevant flight crew member' now includes 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. The Order requires 'relevant persons' to go to a quarantine facility and 'relevant flight crew members' to either go to a quarantine facility or to self-isolate. The Amending Order commenced at 12.01 am on 18 February.

Flights that enter NSW from New Zealand, where some or all passengers or crew have been in countries other than Australia or New Zealand in the last 14 days, are considered 'red zone flights' and an increased public health risk.

Flight crew quarantine and testing

Commencing 12 January 2021, the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) Amendment Order 2021 introduced new testing requirements for flight crew. These amendments were made in conjunction with the changes in quarantine and transport requirements for flight crew, effective 22 December 2020.

  • 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," 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 NSW guidelines for the onward domestic travel of international aircrew.

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

Testing for hotel quarantine workers

Commencing on 14 December 2020, the Order was amended to describe the NSW Testing program for staff working in quarantine facilities:

  • A "designated quarantine facility worker" 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.
  • The NSW hotel quarantine worker surveillance and testing program sets out when different categories of worker must be tested.
Testing for designated airport workers

Commencing on 5 February 2021, the Order was amended to enable the extension of the NSW Testing Program to workers at airports. The below requirements in relation to designated airport workers would only be triggered once a worker, or class of workers, was specified in the NSW Testing Program.

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Air Transportation Quarantine) Order (No 4) Amendment (Designated Airport Workers) Order 2021 (the Amending Order):

  • 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.
  • 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.

Unaccompanied minors

On 21 December 2020, the quarantine arrangements changed for unaccompanied minors arriving in NSW from overseas:

  • NSW Health has established an individual application process for exemption to government quarantine for unaccompanied minors.
  • Minors who do not have an exemption will need to stay in a government quarantine facility, and should be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • 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

Public Health (COVID-19 Maritime Quarantine) Order (No 4) 2020 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.

Commencing on 14 December 2020, the Order (No 4) carries over the requirements in the Public Health (COVID-19 Maritime Quarantine) Order (No 3) 2020 with some minor amendments:

  • the Order requires a person who disembarks a vessel or leaves a quarantine facility because of an emergency to comply with directions of the Commissioner of Police
  • a person who is allowed to temporarily embark on a vessel to perform functions or provide services must disembark immediately after providing the functions or services
  • minor changes have been made to define a "wharf" (under the Order, the occupier of the wharf must develop and comply with a COVID-19 safety plan)
  • the use of a hire car is considered to be "appropriate transportation" for transporting crew between a vessel and a quarantine/medical facility or an airport.

See information on exemptions for air and maritime quarantine.

Self-isolation

The Public Health (COVID-19 Self Isolation) Order (No 5) 2020 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.

The No 5 Order repeals and remakes the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 4) 2020 (No 4 Order). Any obligation to self-isolate under the No 4 Order continues in effect.

The No 5 Order is substantially the same as the No 4 Order subject to:

  • the NSW Health self isolation guidelines (that persons who are required to self-isolate must comply with) have been updated
  • the No 5 Order requires compliance with the guidelines which may change from time to time.

Commencing on 3 January 2021, the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 5) Amendment 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

Public Health (COVID-19 Aged Care Facilities) Order (No 4) 2020 places restrictions on who can enter and remain on the premises of residential aged care facilities. The Order does not restrict residents of aged care facilities from entering or remaining on the premises of residential aged care facilities.

Commencing on 15 December 2020, the Order No 4 remakes the previous Order (no 3) and continues most of the restrictions and requirements in the previous Order (relating to limiting entry and requiring people permitted to enter to be screened prior to entry), but does loosen some of the restrictions. The No 4 Order includes the following amendments:

  • removes the restrictions on the number of care and support visitors a resident can receive at one time (that is, residents will no longer be limited to two visitors per visit)
  • removes the requirement for persons entering to provide a care and support visit to have the flu vaccination
  • allows a person to enter a residential aged care facility to provide a "welfare or wellbeing" visit to residents or to accompany a prospective resident. Such visitors do not have to have a flu vaccination
  • the operator of a residential aged care facility or facilities is required to consider the advice of the Chief Health Officer in deciding the number of visitors who can enter the premises.

Penalties for breaching the Public Health Order

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: Monday 8 March 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW