New South Wales has recorded a surge in Omicron variant COVID-19 cases just one day before a swathe of restrictions will ease across the state.
From 12.01am on December 15, unvaccinated residents in the state will be given all the same freedoms as those who are fully vaccinated and density limits in all settings will be removed.
As millions of NSW residents prepare for Christmas gatherings, work parties, holiday shopping and travel, here's everything you need to know about the December 15 changes.
When are COVID-19 restrictions easing in NSW?
COVID-19 restrictions are easing in NSW at 12.01am on December 15.
For many, it will mark a return to a pre-COVID way of life with only some rules – such as masks in some settings and occasional COVID-19 check-ins – remaining.
What is changing for unvaccinated people in NSW?
From December 15, all people in NSW will be granted the same freedoms, regardless of their vaccination status.
Previously, unvaccinated residents have been limited to essential retail and have been unable to re-enter pubs, cafes and gyms.
From tomorrow, they will be allowed to attend all the same places as those who are fully vaccinated.
Do I have to still wear a mask from December 15?
You do, but only in limited settings.
Masks will only be required on public transport and planes, at airports, and for indoors front-of-house hospitality staff who are not fully vaccinated.
Masks will be strongly encouraged in settings where you cannot social distance.
Do I still have to check-in via the Service NSW app?
Potentially – COVID-19 check-ins will only be required at some places.
These include hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, gyms, places of worship, funerals and memorial services, personal services, pubs, small bars and registered clubs, nightclubs, strip clubs, sex-on-premises and indoor music festivals with over 1000 people.
Are there any restrictions on what families can do on Christmas Day?
From tomorrow, there will be no limit to the number of visitors to your home and no limit to the number of people for outdoor public gatherings.
There are no government restrictions on whether your family members are vaccinated or not.
What changes are coming for shopping centres?
From tomorrow, all retail shops will be open to all people – there will be no government requirement to check-in and unvaccinated people will be allowed to enter.
There will be no requirement to wear a mask in shopping centres, but wearing one is highly encouraged in settings where you cannot socially distance.
Will the easing of restrictions make the case numbers jump significantly higher?
Health authorities have already warned that end-of-year celebrations and Christmas parties could drive a new wave of Omicron infections.
But higher case numbers may not necessarily mean NSW's health system is under pressure.
Recent data shows the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may result in fewer hospitalisations than previous variants, such as Delta.
What about close contact rules? Are they changing?
They are not.
To summarise, if you have been told you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you must self-isolate for seven days and get a PCR test immediately.
You must then get another PCR test on day six and then again on day 12.
If you work in a "high-risk setting" such as a hospital or aged care, you should work from home for the next seven days after isolating as a precaution.
If you are not fully vaccinated you must isolate for 14 days.
Casual contacts must still get tested for COVID-19 immediately and self-isolate until they return a negative result.
They must get tested again on day six after the last contact with the COVID-19 positive person do not need to self-isolate while waiting for this test result, if they feel well.
What about travel? Can I travel throughout NSW if I am unvaccinated?
From December 15, all NSW residents can travel wherever they like in the state.
Caravan parks and camping grounds will open for people who are not fully vaccinated.
Travelling outside of NSW is largely dependent on the rules and restrictions of your destination.
What about weddings and funerals? Will any restrictions remain there?
No – pretty much all restrictions fall away from tomorrow.
There will be no person limit at weddings and people are free to eat, drink and dance as they like.
Funerals are the same.
Conceivably, the only capacity limits that remain at function venues will be those set to meet NSW fire and liquor licensing regulations.
Are there any changes for pubs, restaurants, theme parks and stadiums?
From December 15, there will be no density limits for all settings.
This means pubs, restaurants, theme parks, stadiums can accept as many people that can safely fit within their respective venues.
You can drink standing up, you can sing and dance, and you can go to the theatre or the cricket without a formal requirement to wear a mask.
What about places where people are in confined spaces, like music festivals and cruises?
Music festivals will be limited to 20,000 and attendees of indoor music festivals with more than 1000 people will be required to show proof of vaccination.
Cruises with over 100 passengers will also require everyone onboard to be fully vaccinated.
What does this mean for my work Christmas party?
Hundreds of thousands of people will be celebrating their work Christmas party in the coming days as the countdown towards Christmas looms.
Your employer may implement COVID-safe practices, but there will be almost no government-led rules on what they must do.
You'll likely need to sign in to a pub if you go to one, but you won't need to show proof of vaccination.
What if I'm flying to NSW from overseas?
From December 15, international travellers who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to quarantine when they arrive.
You must still do a PCR test and the vaccine you received must be recognised by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
If you are not fully vaccinated and flying to NSW you will still need to quarantine on arrival for 14 days.
Does this mean NSW residents who have been working from home must go into the office?
The NSW Government has left the door open for office workers, saying employers should "allow staff to work from home at their discretion".
I'm a business owner in NSW, what do I need to do to comply with the new rules?
It depends on what function your business serves but, broadly, from tomorrow COVID-19 safety plans will be optional for businesses.
If you run a pub, a gym, a small bar or a nightclub (among other businesses), you'll still need to keep your COVID QR check-in codes for patrons to use.