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What small businesses need to know about the latest COVID-19 rules for NSW

4-minute read

The unexpected surge of coronavirus cases in Sydney in late 2020 has been contained (for now), resulting in another easing of restrictions for the city and its surrounding regions. For many business owners, however, the stop-start nature of the outbreaks and fluctuating rules may continue to impact your business model.


Key take-outs

  • The government has again eased restrictions following the containment of the December 2020 coronavirus outbreak in Greater Sydney, which includes Wollongong, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains
  • Face masks are now only mandatory on public transport in Greater Sydney
  • The two square metre rule now applies at all venues except gyms in Greater Sydney
  • Businesses are asked to limit physical interactions and adhere to customer limitations at their premises
  • 'Digital helpers’ like the Service NSW COVID-Safe app, QR codes and cashless payment software can help reduce physical touch-points



With an unpredictable year ahead, we’re here to support you with up-to-date information about business requirements, and access to resources and support. Here’s what the changes currently look like in NSW and some tips for how to keep your business afloat – and your employees and the public safe – no matter where you are.

Business limitations in Greater Sydney

With the most recent Sydney outbreak now under control, the government has further eased some rules and regulations affecting businesses operating across Greater Sydney, which includes Wollongong, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains. Some measures, however, remain in place. They are aimed at reducing the spread of the virus while allowing businesses to continue to operate.


To continue to keep your business running safely in Greater Sydney may still mean taking some additional precautions for now. Depending on your industry, your business may be required to limit and monitor the number of customers on your premises. The two square metre rule now applies indoors and outdoors at most venues, but gyms are still subject to the four square metre rule. Up to 25 customers can attend your premises before the square metre rules apply.


There are also capacity caps to certain activities, which may impact you if you run a business related to one of the following industries:


  • Fitness: Gym classes are capped at 30 people.
  • Events: Weddings, funerals and memorial services are limited to 300 attendees. Controlled outdoor events can accommodate up to 500 people if you provide assigned seating areas, like marked grass areas. But if everyone is assigned a specific seat, you can host up to 2,000 people. The two square metre rule applies.
  • Performing arts: Outdoor performances and rehearsals are currently allowed to host 500 people, and the two square metre rule applies.


Rural and regional NSW have been mostly unaffected by recent developments, meaning there are fewer changes to follow at this point. For example, wearing face masks will remain optional for now. However, the number of customers per venue remains at 25 or one person per two square metres. Standing is allowed outdoors at hospitality venues, but seating is required indoors.


So you can stay informed, the government is providing resources that are updated as the situation develops in NSW and other Australian states and territories.

Operating safely in NSW

Regardless of whether you operate in Greater Sydney or wider NSW, there are a few ways to navigate your business through this uncertain time and remain operational while keeping your employees and customers safe. These include:


  • The Service NSW COVID-Safe app: Since the beginning of this year, businesses need to ask customers to check-in via the Service NSW COVID-Safe app to aid contact tracing in case of an outbreak. You can learn how to set it up for your business on the government website.
  • A COVID-Safe Plan: If you don’t have one already, it might be time to create or update your business’s COVID-Safe Plan. To help you do so, the NSW Government has a comprehensive online guide, including tools and templates for different industries.
  • Cashless payments: Integrating software like Presto Smart enables you to take cashless payments. Along with creating convenience for customers who can transact safely and securely, cashless payments reduces manual cash handling by minimising the amount of cash flowing through your business, and also makes your end-of-day reconciliation a breeze.
  • Increased hygiene: Introduce more frequent cleaning regimes and give customers easy access to sanitiser.
  • Staff training: Invest in employee training to ensure everyone is familiar with the latest COVID-19 hygiene best practice.
  • QR codes: These can be handy little helpers - and not only for check-in purposes. You can also use them to help reduce touch-points by enabling customers to view details about your offering or ordering straight from your menu at their table.
  • Going digital: Ramping up your digital offering can help your business continue to operate should your premises be forced to temporarily close again like during the first coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. Whether it’s offering take-away or creating an online store and a digital marketing strategy, think about what you could do now to prepare.

Where are face masks mandatory?

Masks are now only mandatory on public transport, although NSW Health recommends that they continue to be worn at indoor venues where socially distancing isn’t possible. 


Non-compliance can incur on-the-spot penalties, and individuals may be fined $200 for not wearing a mask on public transport. 


Exemptions apply, for example, for children aged 12 years and under, as well as people with physical or mental conditions or disabilities that make wearing a mask unsuitable. You can view the full list of exemptions here.

We’re here to help

As the virus is likely to continue to impact our lives for the foreseeable future, businesses have to remain vigilant. Ramping up your safety measures, complying with government regulations and introducing payment software like Presto Smart that reduces touchpoints could increase your business’s chances of long-term survival.


If you need some help to pivot or grow your business, or if you’re looking to invest in the future, speak to our team about guaranteed business loans as part of Phase 2 of the Government’s Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme. And if you are experiencing financial hardship and need some support please get in touch.


Visit our website to access tools and other support to help your business navigate COVID-19.



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Things you should know

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary seek appropriate professional advice.