A return to pubs as NSW virus rules eased

NSW residents now have more freedom than they’ve had in months with COVID-19 restrictions eased at a host of venues including restaurants, pubs, chapels and beauty salons.

The state on Monday reported three new cases from more than 5700 tests. The new cases are all returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

With the relaxing of restrictions from Monday, NSW Health acting director Dr Christine Selvey has warned the risk of outbreaks and a resurgence of cases remains.

“While there have been few cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the virus is likely circulating among people in the community with mild symptoms,” Dr Selvey said in a video update to media.

She again urged anyone with the mildest symptoms to come forward and get tested.

The hospitality industry is one of several that have been given a much-needed boost from Monday with up to 50 people allowed to dine in restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes.

Venues will have to adhere to strict physical distancing rules, bookings of 10 or more are banned and patrons can’t stand.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro dubbed the changes “happy hour”, with communities once again able to wine and dine.

The loosening of restrictions comes in time for the June long weekend with libraries, art galleries, museums, zoos, reptile parks and aquariums also reopening from Monday.

The most requested restriction to be eased relates to beauty salons, with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard saying their recommencement “topped the barrel”.

He said it was vital both businesses and patrons followed health and safety guidelines.

“We need to accept life will be different until we have an effective treatment or a vaccine,” Mr Hazzard said in a statement on Monday. 

Beauty, tanning, nail and waxing venues will be able to provide treatments with strict rules in place.

No more than 10 clients will be allowed inside salons at any one time and four square metres of space must be allowed per person.

From Monday, up to 20 people can also attend weddings and 50 will be allowed at funerals and places of worship.

The Berejiklian government had been wary about relaxing these rules after seeing outbreaks in churches and church choirs overseas.

People are also able to head to the state’s regions for holidays with camping grounds and caravan parks reopening on Monday after recreational regional travel was banned in March.

The state’s alpine region won’t be open in time for the June long weekend but will welcome snowhounds back to the slopes from June 22.

Police will be conducting a month-long, high-visibility operation across regional NSW from Monday to ensure social distancing continues.

“Police will be conducting random checks and patrols of licensed venues throughout our regions, with the ability for resources to be shared amongst police districts where the demand is needed,” Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said in a statement.

The premier has said interstate visitors are welcome as the government works to  rescue jobs and boost the battered economy.

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