“It’s a massive relief”: NSW small businesses welcome easing of COVID-19 restrictions

NSW-coronavirus

Joanne Pagano, owner of Made to Wear Boutique in Rozelle, Sydney. Source: Supplied.

Small businesses in New South Wales have just weeks before they can trade free of tough vaccine rules, after the state government said it will lift the majority of COVID-19 restrictions next month.

On Thursday, the NSW government updated its COVID-19 roadmap, confirming that restrictions will ease when the state reaches the 95% double dose vaccination target, which is expected to take place by December 15.

Under the changes, businesses won’t be required to check their customers’ vaccination status, but they can ask for proof at their own discretion. Event managers of indoor music festivals with more than 1000 people will still be required to ensure all fans are vaccinated.

Businesses won’t need to ensure their customers and staff are wearing masks, except for front-of-house, indoor hospitality workers who aren’t fully vaccinated. Mask rules will still apply on public transport and planes, and at airports.

When the state reaches the 95% double vaccination milestone, businesses can operate without density limits, COVID-19 safety plans will be optional, and QR check-ins will only be required at high-risk venues.

High risk venues include gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons, a select range of hospitality venues and large indoor music festivals.

Sigrid Chambers, co-founder of Exolt fitness studio in Drummoyne, tells SmartCompany it was a “massive relief” to hear yesterday that she will be able to operate with less restrictions next month.

“It’s a massive relief to go back to normal operations, and it will feel like there are no restrictions on the business anymore,” Chambers says.

NSW-coronavirus

Exolt fitness class in Drummoyne Sydney. Source: Supplied.

Customers returned to in-person classes at Exolt fitness studio in October but due to the vaccine requirement, Chambers continued operating online classes for unvaccinated clients.

She hopes to stop offering online classes when restrictions ease, focusing on the in-person electro muscle stimulation (EMS) classes she runs, which require specialised equipment.

“I’m hoping that it will decrease the workload,” she says.

Along with the owners of gyms and fitness studios, retail operators will be able to trade without onerous vaccine requirements. Retailers will also have the option to keep using their COVID-19 safe plans and QR code check-in systems.

Joanne Pagano, owner of Made to Wear Boutique in Rozelle, says the “huge” change will encourage more customers to frequent high street shopping precincts.

“I think it’s going to be a huge change for retailing because people are tired of having to QR check-in and wear masks for hours on end,” Pagano says.

Pagano has operated Made to Wear Boutique for nine years, selling locally designed and made clothing for women aged between 40 to 70 years.

Over the past few months, Pagano has noticed fewer locals visit the normally busy high street, where her shop is located in Sydney’s inner west.

“Since the last lockdown ended, I’m just not seeing as many locals as I normally would,” she says.

But she expects foot traffic to increase once the burden of having to wear a mask, check-in, and show a vaccine certificate is removed.

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