Here is the week that was, told through a compilation of our Southern Highlands and Southern Tableland COVID rules explainers.
But first, here's the latest:
New freedoms for the fully vaccinated
Lockdowns in the region have been extended until midnight September 10.
From Monday, September 13, Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands adults who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to gather outdoors in groups of five people (including children) in the two regions.
Because the Wingecarribe Shire portion of the Southern Highlands and LGAs of the Southern Tablelands are not "areas of concern", there are no time restrictions on these outdoor gatherings, but all adults must be fully vaccinated.
They must also occur in public places (so they can't be in a person's back yard, for instance).
The gatherings must take place in a person's LGA or within 5km of their home.
You will be within the rules if you cross into another LGA but only if you stay within 5km of your home.
Further freedoms are expected when vaccination rates hit 70 and 80 per cent.
The plan for returning to school
School students could return to face-to-face learning much sooner than their city counterparts.
If stay at home orders are lifted in an LGA or region before October 25, students living in those areas could return to classrooms under a range of COVID-safe measures.
The Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands will remain in an extended statewide lockdown under stay-at-home orders until September 10 when it will be reviewed.
A staggered plan for a return to school across NSW was revealed today, August 27, by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell.
In a joint statement, the Premier outlined a range of measures for a return to school in a "COVID-safe way".
When stay-at-home rules are still in place, but other community vaccination and transmission conditions are met, students will return to school in a staged way, the Department of Education said.
The "staged plan" for affected schools aims for a return to face-to-face learning which will begin from October 25.
Unless stay at home orders are lifted in an LGA or region before October 25, students will return to face-to-face learning with NSW Health approved COVID safe settings on school sites in the following order:
- From 25 October - Kindergarten and Year 1
- From 1 November - Year 2, 6 and 11
- From 8 November - Year 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10
- Year 12 students are already able to return in a limited way and this will continue for the remainder of term 3. From 25 October, year 12 will have full time access to school campuses and their teachers.
If stay at home orders are lifted in an LGA or region before October 25, all students living or learning in that area will return to face to face learning under the Department's COVID-safe schools framework.
If cases in certain LGAs increase significantly, learning from home will resume for that LGA until case numbers drop.
HSC exams will be delayed until November 9 with a revised timetable and guidelines for a COVID-safe HSC to be released by NESA in early September.
Vaccinations for all school staff across all sectors will be mandatory from November 8.
The return to school comes as Australia's vaccine advisory group ATAGI recommended children aged 12 to 15 the receive Pfizer vaccine.
"The return to school plan provides parents, teachers and students with certainty and a path forward for the return to face-to-face learning," Ms Berejiklian said.
"We know the last few months have been tough on the school community and we are deeply grateful to parents, teachers and students for the sacrifices you have made. Please continue to protect our students by getting vaccinated as quickly as possible."
Exercise and outdoor recreation rules
Exercise and outdoor recreation is a reasonable excuse to leave home in the Highlands and Tablelands.
A NSW Health spokesperson explained the rules as follows:
"Exercise is an activity that requires some kind of physical activity that can help maintain or improve health, such as running or walking whereas recreation includes leisure activities such as sitting for relaxation, or to eat, drink or read outdoors."
This means you can sit down at a park bench for a coffee or sunbake at the beach as long as you are socially distancing, wearing a mask and following gathering rules.
There are no time limits on exercise or outdoor recreation in the the two regional areas.
If exercising or partaking in outdoor recreation, you can go anywhere within your Local Government Area.
You can cross into another LGA for exercise or outdoor recreation but only if that allows you to stay within 5km of your home.
Gathering outdoors for exercise or outdoor recreation is limited to two people but if you live with more than two other people, you can all go out together for exercise.
You can exercise with one other person you do not live with or your nominated 'singles bubble' visitor.
Nominated 'singles bubble' visitor rules
Many people on social media are incorrectly inferring relationship status to NSW government's usage of the word 'single' in singles bubble.
In reality, the singles bubble rules give special consideration to those who live alone - regardless of their relationship status.
In the Wingecarribe and Goulburn Local Government Areas, those who live with no other adult can nominate a visitor to their home to socialise with but that person must be from the same LGA as well.
In regional NSW, registration of your nominated visitor is not required.
You can nominate a visitor if you live only with children under 18 years of age and the visitor may bring their dependent children if no other care arrangements can be made.
Carpooling to get to a place of recreation or exercise is not allowed unless you are sharing the car with people from your household or with your nominated 'singles bubble' visitor.
You are not permitted to share a car with someone outside of your household unless it is for an emergency, a compassionate reason, to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person or if the car is being used as a taxi or rideshare.
Mask wearing rules
Fitted mask wearing outside is mandatory across the state, except when exercising. You must carry a face mask and identification with you at all times.
You are required to wear a mask:
- When you are outside in a public place including on a street or at a park, queuing outside a café or shop to collect take away food or drink or walking on a street near shop fronts.
- In all indoor areas of non-residential premises, including workplaces.
- If you are working in an outdoor area or on a construction site (except if wearing it creates a safety issue or there is a worksite emergency).
- In common indoor areas in residential buildings including shared foyers, laundries, stairwells, lifts and corridors.
You are not required to wear a mask:
- When exercising, although when you leave your house to exercise, you must bring your identification and mask with you. Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said walking was good enough exercise to justify leaving your mask off. He strongly advised masks be put back on when social distancing could not be maintained, such as on a busy street or walking track.
- At home (including residents of aged care) but NSW Health strongly recommends wearing face masks if you are unable to physically distance from people you do not live with.
- In an emergency.
- When you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and seeing the mouth is essential.
- When you are eating or drinking.
- At work and the nature of the work makes the wearing of a fitted face covering a risk to health and safety.
- If you are identifying yourself to police.
- At a correctional centre, place of custody, or hospital.
- A guest in a hotel/motel room and in your room.
- In the process of getting married.
- Working alone in an office (until another person enters).
- In a vehicle alone or with another person from your household (or your nominated singles bubble visitor).
Early childhood education and care services continue to operate in regional NSW so if you have more questions pertaining to this, contact your childcare centre to ask about any changes to their operations.
While visiting another person is generally not a reasonable excuse to leave your home, childcare is classed as an exemption. However, only one person is allowed to visit for childcare.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian pleaded to parents to keep children at home where possible.
"We are also encouraging that unless you have to, please do not send your children to childcare or early childhood [learning centres]," Ms Berejiklian said.
Positive infections have been reported at schools and childcare centres in the past.
You may drop your kids off at the carer's residence or the carer may come to your residence (so long as only one person comes).
You can visit another Local Government Area to pick up or drop off your child from childcare even if it is more than 5km from home.
Holiday home rules
Following public outcry, a person who normally lives in a Sydney LGA can no longer move to their second home in a regional area.
One such story involved District Court Judge Chris Hoy visiting his Shoalhaven holiday house with his wife in order to circumvent stay-at-home rules.
Following a 14 day isolation in the Shoalhaven, Judge Hoy and his wife made their way to their final destination - skiing in Thredbo.
Travel between residences, except for essential maintenance, is banned. Only one person is permitted to travel if essential maintenance is required.
Romantic partner rules
Under the NSW Public Health Orders, it is a reasonable excuse to leave your home to visit your partner no matter where they live in the state.
The exemption applies to two people who are in a relationship but do not necessarily live together and falls under compassionate reasons.
It is important to remember you may have to prove your reason for your journey if you are stopped by police.
Stay at home rules apply if you were in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains and Wollongong on or after Monday 21 June 2021.
You must follow the stay at home rules for 14 days from the date you left the area.
- $500 on the spot fine fine for not wearing or carrying a mask.
- $80 fines apply to those aged 16 or 17 years of age who fail to comply with a direction to wear or carry a mask. Those aged 15 or younger can be fined $40.
- $3,000 on the spot fine for breaching the two-person outdoor exercise/recreation rule.
- $3,000 on the spot fine for breaching rules around entry into regional NSW for authorised work, inspecting real estate and travelling to your second home.
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