NSW 'back to normal' a year after pandemic

Masks won't be mandatory in any setting in NSW from Monday, including all public transport.
Masks won't be mandatory in any setting in NSW from Monday, including all public transport.

Singing and dancing in crowded houses and nightclubs will be allowed and commuters won't have to wear masks in NSW from next week.

A year after the country was put into lockdown amid the pandemic, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a raft of COVID-19 restrictions would be repealed on Monday.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet declared the rollback meant NSW was "pretty much back to normal".

Masks won't be mandatory anywhere, with commuters to decide for themselves if they need to mask up on public transport.

Big weddings and funerals are back - with no limit on the number of guests - while dancing and singing will be allowed in any environment, including places of worship.

There will be no limit on the number of visitors allowed in homes, as long as an electronic record is kept of who was there once the number exceeds 100.

The premier promised an enforcement push on QR code check-ins over the coming weeks, which she described as "the key to our success".

"If there is an outbreak and we can't identify all the people in a particular venue, we'll be having to go backwards again," Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.

Police and Service NSW would "come down hard" on businesses and people who don't do the right thing, she vowed.

The premier said the changes were possible as there was no community transmission and the vaccine roll-out was progressing well, with 100 per cent of quarantine workers now vaccinated with at least the first shot of Pfizer.

The families of frontline workers will be next to get the jab.

She urged people to be sensible and keep using hand sanitiser, get tested and stay home if they have symptoms, and wear masks when social distancing isn't possible.

Meanwhile, the body charged with oversight of the state government says people in NSW hotel quarantine have not had a clear avenue to make complaints despite having legitimate concerns about their treatment and health.

The NSW Ombudsman says the state government also initially ignored calls for extraordinary pandemic-era powers to be subjected to oversight.

The ombudsman received 900 complaints relating to COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic, it revealed in a report titled '2020 Hindsight'.

More than half related to hotel quarantine, including the conditions of hotel facilities, inadequate food options, access to mental health and other medical assistance, and a lack of access to fresh air.

People held in quarantine in NSW are not routinely given access to fresh air and outdoor exercise, contrary to the minimum standards laid out by the United Nations.

NSW Police told the ombudsman they chose hotels for quarantine based primarily on security considerations, leading them to favour high-rise buildings which often don't have opening windows or balconies.

The ombudsman says now the initial urgency of the pandemic has subsided, police should think about giving people access to fresh air.

Australian Associated Press