New year, new restrictions: the state of COVID-19 in Australia

New year, new restrictions: the state of COVID-19 in Australia

Welcome back to Business News Australia's COVID-19 live update feed for 2021.

Over the last two weeks an outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney's Northern Beaches region ruined Christmas and New Year travel plans for many Australians, sparking border closures and new restrictions around the country.

The outbreak, initially contained within the Northern Beaches area, has since spread down to Melbourne where new cases have been popping up in recent days.

Another cluster in the NSW capital's western suburbs, connected to a returning overseas traveller, has largely centred around a BWS liquor shop in Berala.

Today the NSW Government announced two new cases connected to the outbreak of COVID-19 at the BWS store in Berala were discovered overnight.

These new cases are not included in the state's official daily case updates as they were discovered after 8pm on Sunday, but were announced by NSW Acting Premier John Barilaro this morning.

In total there are 188 active cases of COVID-19 in NSW, not including the two new cases that were confirmed overnight.

Meanwhile in Victoria three new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were reported this morning, bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 36.

Because of these outbreaks new restrictions have been put in place in NSW, including the mandatory wearing of masks, and border restrictions have come back into play in all states and territories.

Restrictions in New South Wales

Mandatory mask wearing

Overnight the mandatory wearing of masks became enforceable for residents of Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Wollongong and Blue Mountains.

Those caught not wearing a mask in certain indoor settings (shopping centres, indoor entertainment, public/shared transport, waiting areas for transport) can be fined $200 on the spot.

Masks are also mandatory for places of worship, hair and beauty premises, and when visiting aged care facilities.

Staff in hospitality venues and gaming areas in licenced premises must also wear masks.

Gathering restrictions

Restrictions on gatherings are different depending on where people reside in NSW.

In the northern area of the Northern Beaches (from North Narrabeen to Palm Beach):

  • Stay at home rules apply, and residents may only leave the house to exercise, to purchase essential goods or services, or to get medical care or supplies;
  • Up to five people, including children, may gather outdoors in a public place for exercise or another recreational activity;
  • General outdoor gatherings not for exercise or recreational activity are restricted to no more than two people.

In Greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong:

  • Household gatherings are restricted to five visitors;
  • Outdoor public gatherings are restricted to no more than 30 people;
  • Outdoor events are subject to the one person per two square metre rule, with a maximum of 500 people if attendees are assigned to a seating area or 2,000 people if assigned to specific seats;
  • Venue operators must ensure there are at least 2 square metres of space in outdoor areas and 4 square metres of space in indoor areas;
  • Gyms are restricted to the four square metre rule and a maximum of 30 people per class;

In regional NSW:

  • Up to 50 visitors from any household may visit another household at any one time;
  • Hospitality venues must ensure there are at least 2 square metres of space for each person on the premises.

Victorian COVID-19 restrictions

As of 31 December 2020 the following restrictions are in place for Victoria:

  • The number of people who can visit a home per day (either at once or across the day) has been reduced to 15 (excluding members of the household and children under 12 months);
  • Masks are mandatory indoors.

Border restrictions in place

Across the country different border controls have been implemented since Sydney's third wave of COVID-19 commenced in late 2020.

The current border restrictions by state are as follows:

New South Wales

NSW is currently open to receiving travellers from all Australian states and territories with no permit required.

However, health authorities recommend delaying non-essential travel within NSW, especially between Greater Sydney and regional areas.


Queensland residents who have been in Greater Sydney in the last 14 days must apply for a Border Declaration Pass and will be directed to quarantine in government arranged accommodation on arrival. Those who have been or intend to go to NSW but not Greater Sydney must also apply for a pass.

As of today Queensland hospitals, aged care facilities, disability accommodation facilities and correctional facilities are closed to all visitors that have been in Victoria on or since Monday 21 December 2020 or left Victoria less than 14 days ago.


VIC's border closed to New South Wales on 1 January 2021, with returning residents to get tested and isolate at home for 14 days on arrival.

Victorians must not enter from Greater Sydney, Northern Beaches, or the Central Coast.

Those living in VIC border communities will continue to be able to access the 'border bubble' using their driver's license to prove their residential address.


Travellers who have been in high-risk areas in NSW or VIC can provide evidence of residency and seek to complete 14 days required quarantine at a residential address or other suitable premises.

Non-residents who have been in a high-risk area in NSW and VIC can only enter the state if they receive an exemption.

South Australia

Effective 12:01am 1 January 2021, anyone who has been in NSW in the last 14 days will be prohibited from entry into South Australia.

Northern Territory

All people travelling to the Northern Territory must complete a border entry form.

Anyone arriving into the Northern Territory from or through Sydney in the last 14 days must undertake 14 days mandatory quarantine in supervised accommodation.

Western Australia

Travel into WA from VIC and NSW is no longer permitted unless you are an exempt traveller.

Exempt travellers will be required to complete 14 days of self-quarantine on arrival in WA.

Anyone who has arrived from Victoria since December 21 or was in Victoria from December 21 and has since arrived in WA will be required to do the following:

  • self-quarantine in a suitable premises until you have spent 14 days in WA;
  • present for a COVID-19 test as soon as any symptoms develop;
  • present for a COVID-19 test on Day 11 after arrival in WA.

Australian Capital Territory

Non-ACT residents who have been in the Northern Beaches, Greater Sydney, Central Coast, or Wollongong are not permitted to enter the ACT unless an exemption is granted.

If people have just transited through Greater Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong without making any stops, they are not required to seek an exemption or complete a declaration.

ACT residents who have visited any of the Sydney hotspots must complete an online declaration 24 hours before they intend to travel back to the Territory.

Updated at 12.25pm AEDT on 4 January 2021.

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