explainer

'Will police be checking for vaccine proof at picnics?' Your questions about NSW's COVID-19 rules, answered.

As NSW battles its largest outbreak since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, parts of the state remain under lockdown.

As of 12:01am Saturday 11 September, parts of regional NSW deemed low risk were able to exit lockdown, but some restrictions are still in place for people living in those areas. 

Meanwhile, Greater Sydney's lockdown has been extended until the end of September, as cases of the Delta variant of the virus continue to hover around NSW-record levels.

In parts of the state under lockdown, the four core "essential reasons" to leave your home include: 

  • shopping for food or other essential goods and services;
  • for medical care or compassionate needs;
  • exercise;
  • and essential work or education, where you cannot work or study from home.

But restrictions have been changing regularly for Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong, and it can be hard to keep track of how they apply.

So here are the answers to some of the commonly asked questions about the current rules.

Can I get married during lockdown? 

Yes, wedding ceremonies can go ahead during lockdown.

However, no more than 11 people can attend a small wedding service. This includes a maximum of five guests, the two people getting married, two witnesses, a celebrant or officiant and one person recording the service.

Gatherings or receptions also aren't allowed to take place after the service. 

Can I visit my partner during lockdown?

Yes. 

Health officials have clarified that residents of Greater Sydney can visit an intimate partner if they live at another residence.

Can I visit a friend or relative during lockdown?

No, unless they are single and live alone. (See question below.)

You cannot visit another household unless for essential care or compassionate reasons. That may include providing childcare, dropping off food or medicine or fulfilling carers’ responsibilities to a vulnerable person. Only one person is permitted to enter another household for these reasons.

Can I visit my single friend who lives alone?

Yes. Single bubbles are permitted, meaning if you are single and live alone, you can nominate one person who is allowed to visit you. It must be the same person for the duration of lockdown — you cannot change. 

If you live outside the 12 local government areas that have been identified as hotspots, then the person you nominate must also live outside of those 12 LGAs. 

The 12 LGAs of concern include Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith. 

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If do you live in the LGAs of concern, the person you nominate must live within a 5km radius of you. You will also need to formally register the name of your single buddy with NSW Health. 

Police performing compliance checks on motorists travelling during Sydney's lockdown. Image: Getty. 

What are the curfew rules? 

If you live in an LGA of concern, you cannot leave your home between 9pm and 5am unless you have one of the following reasonable excuses: 

  • you need to leave your home to go to work (ensuring all other requirements for work are met);
  • collecting or dropping off children at childcare;
  • providing care to a vulnerable person;
  • obtaining medical care;
  • attending to legal obligations or animal welfare;
  • to take a family member from their home to their workplace and pick them up from their workplace to take them home.

Can I have a picnic or exercise outside with friends and family?

You can only exercise or pursue recreation outdoors with:

  • members of your household;
  • OR one other person you do not live with.

You must also remain within your LGA for exercise or, if you do cross into another LGA, you must not venture more than 5km from your home.

For residents of the 12 LGAs of concern, exercise is unlimited outside of the curfew hours. Outdoor recreation, such as sitting or reading in a park, is not permitted.

However, from 12.01am, September 13, those who have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to enjoy new freedoms around outdoor recreation. 

For those who live outside of the LGAs of concern, outdoor gatherings of up to five fully vaccinated adults will be allowed in a person's LGA or within 5km of home. Children under 12 are not counted in this total. 

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For those who live in the LGAs of concern, a household where all adults are fully vaccinated will be able to gather for outdoor recreation (including picnics) for up to two hours, within the existing rules (outside curfew hours and within 5km of home). 

Will police be checking vaccine IDs at picnics?

Yes. 

Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed police will be checking the vaccination status of people exercising the new freedoms from Monday. 

"You need to be able to prove you have been vaccinated. That's part of the conditions of having those freedoms that you've got to be able to prove if you're pulled up by police," said Mr Barilaro.

To find out how to add your vaccine certificate to your phone, check out our earlier article here. 

Do I have to wear a mask when exercising?

No. While it is mandatory for all people in NSW to wear a mask outdoors from August 23, you can remove it while exercising. 

That doesn't mean, however, that you can leave your mask at home when heading out for a walk or run. Premier Gladys Berejiklian stressed that people must carry a mask with them at all times.

Can I travel to a different suburb?

You can only leave the house for one of the essential reasons. So if it's for essential work or care purposes, yes. 

However, for shopping and exercise, you must stay within your LGA or, if you need to cross to another LGA, you remain within 5km of your home.

Can I take someone into the supermarket with me?

Only if they are a dependant who cannot be left at home alone. Otherwise, only one person per household per day is permitted to shop.

Can I carpool?

No. The NSW Government says if you are travelling by car, you cannot share the car with other people you do not live with, unless for care reasons, in an emergency or if they are your nominated single buddy.

Are hairdressers open?

No. Hairdressers and beauty salons are not considered an essential service, and are closed for the duration of the lockdown.

Are gyms open?

Indoor exercise is not allowed in Sydney's lockdown rules.  

Are retail shops open?

Most are closed.

However, some critical retail businesses are allowed to remain open to customers, as they are deemed to provide essential goods or services. These include hardware stores, garden centres/plant nurseries, mobile phone repair stores, and shops that primarily sell pet supplies, baby supplies or office supplies. (Note: in the 12 LGAs of concern, these shops are only permitted to operate via delivery or click-and-collect.)

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Other shops, such as florists and fashion/homeware retailers, are allowed to trade under the condition that goods can be ordered by phone/internet and delivered to/collected by customers.

Sydney will be in lockdown until at least August 28. Image: Getty.  

Can I go to the beach?

If you are doing exercise there, then yes. But again, only if that beach is in your local government area or within 5km of your home.

Can I sit outside?

Yes. The NSW Government has defined recreation as "outdoor leisure activities such as sitting for relaxation, or to eat, drink or read outdoors."

But remember, outdoor public gatherings are limited to two people, unless you are gathering with people from your household. Only after 12:01am September 13, will the new 'picnic' freedoms come into play for fully vaccinated citizens. (See above question: Can I have a picnic or exercise outside with friends and family?)

Can I move house during lockdown? Can I help a friend or relative move?

Yes. One excusable reason to leave home is moving to a new residence or moving your business. 

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You can also leave your home to assist someone who is moving if they are your nominated single bubble.

Can I go house-hunting or to an auction?

Under the restrictions, open homes are not permitted and real estate auctions must be held online.

Property inspections can be arranged by appointment, but only for one person at a time.

Can I visit my holiday home?

New restrictions have been put in place for people visiting their holiday homes. 

If you live in Greater Sydney, you are not allowed to travel to your second residences except when granted a permit for special circumstances, such as maintenance. In that event, only one person will be able to attend. Permits will be made available via the Service NSW website.

For up to date information on public health restrictions in your area of NSW, visit the NSW Government website.

This article was originally published on July 14, 2021 and has been updated with new information on September 12, 2021.

Feature image: Getty. 

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