50-person limit as NSW eases virus rules

Up to 50 people will be able to dine in restaurants, pubs and cafes from June 1 as the NSW government eases more COVID-19 restrictions.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday announced the “big and critical” step for the state but said very strict rules would be in place for venues.

They will still have to adhere to the four square metre rule, bookings of more than 10 people will be banned, and patrons won’t be allowed to stand. 

Currently, dining venues can only have a maximum of 10 patrons if they maintain social distancing. That includes alcohol table service with meals at NSW pubs and clubs.

The increase in patronage aligns with the easing of regional travel restrictions across the state and the opening of museums, galleries and libraries from June 1.

It comes as NSW recorded its 50th COVID-19 death after an 80-year-old woman died in Concord Hospital.

Her death brings the national toll to 101.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the woman became infected after being exposed to the virus in an outpatient clinical setting.

Dr Chant says there’s no evidence of further transmission or ongoing risk at Concord Hospital.

The state on Friday recorded three new COVID-19 cases from more than 8600 tests.

As the temperature begins to drop and winter starts, Dr Chant said it’s particularly important for people to come forward to get tested and re-tested if symptoms return.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also flagged that Monday will be a big day for the state as public schools return to full-time face-to-face teaching and people begin returning to on-site work.

“It’s really, really important we don’t forget, we don’t let our guard down, we don’t get complacent because complacency is as big an enemy as the virus itself,” she told reporters.

Ms Berejiklian reiterated her calls for students to, where possible, walk to school, get dropped off or use dedicated school bus services rather than public transport.

The premier confirmed her government is seeking a freeze on pay rises for MPs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has battered the state’s economy.

“We know 90 per cent of people who aren’t employed by the state government have gone through a very very difficult time,” she said.

“Given that is what’s going on at the moment, I think it’s only appropriate for us as elected officials to reflect and empathise with what’s going on out there.”

Meanwhile, ex-NSW arts minister Don Harwin is seeking legal advice to appeal a fine he received for breaching COVID-19 health orders.

The fine was imposed for travelling back and forth between his Elizabeth Bay flat in Sydney’s east and his Pearly Beach holiday home on the Central Coast.

Mr Harwin in April resigned as minister after being docked $1000 by NSW Police for acting “in contravention of a current ministerial direction under the Public Health Act”.

At the time, the Liberal MP argued he had relocated in mid-March before the health orders were made.

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