NSW will ease coronavirus restrictions on religious services, weddings and funerals from Monday, when measures to increase pub and restaurant patronage come into effect.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Friday that from June 1, up to 20 people can attend weddings, 50 at funerals and 50 at places of worship.
However strict social distancing guidelines would continue to apply.
“It is crucial that worshippers remember to follow health advice. This is particularly important for people with co-morbidities aged over 50 and people aged over 70,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The government had been wary about adjusting the restrictions on places of worship after observing COVID-19 outbreaks in churches and church choirs overseas.
But state religious leaders pushed for the relaxation after the government last week announced up to 50 people would be allowed to dine in restaurants, pubs and cafes from June 1.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant outlined the risks requiring management.
“Places of worship will be asked to find alternatives to practices that might spread the virus, like singing, sharing books and even passing around the collection plate,” Dr Chant said on Friday.
“Communal singing and chanting should not occur because of the high risk of transmission.”
Anthony Fisher, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, on Friday said in a statement the Catholic church would abide by all government health regulations.
“The closure of our churches and indeed of all places of worship has been deeply distressing for many people of faith in our community,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“It added to the isolation and anxiety that so many were feeling.”
The archbishop of the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney says Anglican churches are well prepared to return to services with a maximum of 50 people.
Hand sanitisers will be available at each entrance, churches will be thoroughly cleaned between services and designated ushers will record the contact details of each attendee.
“We realise that this is not the normality we enjoyed in 2019 … We are grateful for the relief, joy and comfort that many parishioners will feel in meeting again in public Christian worship,” Archbishop Glenn Davies said in a statement on Friday.
Meanwhile, the state government has a fight on its hands to get a 12-month public sector pay freeze through parliament, with upper house crossbench MPs vowing to block the measure.
Ms Berejiklian on Thursday raised the possibility of job losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic unless the proposed freeze was endorsed on Macquarie Street.
The freeze is expected to save $3 billion which will be reinvested in public projects.
But NSW Labor, the Greens and the Shooters Party have this week flagged they will block the move in the Legislative Council, with one crossbencher arguing the coalition is engaging in “economic blackmail” during a health crisis.
Ms Berejiklian last week sought a freeze on pay rises for MPs, which was extended on Wednesday to include the entire NSW public service comprising 410,000 workers.