Sydney Tests New Covid Office Rules


Masks are coming off in Sydney as workers prepare to go back to the office and truly test the market in Covid-recovery mode.

NSW hit the 70 per cent vaccinated target allowing fully vaccinated adults to enjoy more freedoms from Monday, October 11 including no longer needing facemasks in office buildings.

Meanwhile workers in regional areas would be able to return with one dose of the vaccine from October 11 providing they receive their second dose by November 1 and students would return to schools by October 25.

During the lockdowns office occupancy in Sydney plummeted to 4 per cent while less affected cities were nearing the 90 per cent mark according to the latest Property Council of Australia report.

In Brisbane and Melbourne, where occupancy has fallen to 51 and 6 per cent respectively, workers will have to wait weeks, if not months for office mask restrictions to end.

In the coming months the PCA anticipates a sharp rise in levels and overall CBD market confidence with restrictions finally on the way out.

The latest figures show restrictions and preferences to work from home were the biggest challenge to filling space across the country.

Meanwhile safety concerns for public transport or coming into contact with other employees was dissipating.

However there are concerns from experts that once restrictions ease, cases will surge as “people may be tempted to party like there’s no tomorrow” particularly in the lead up to Christmas.

Office occupancy levels

CityOccupancy RateBusy DaysLight Days

^Source: Property Council of Australia, September 2021 results

NSW Property Council executive director Luke Achterstraat said they welcomed the easing of restrictions as an important part of the CBD relaunch.

“Masks are recognised as a proxy for working from home,” Achterstraat said.

“The commercial building owners have invested heavily to ensure offices are clean and safe places for people to attend.

“We also welcome the ability to host events with up to 3000 attendees, potentially followed by a visit to open nightclubs as celebrations for in person socialisation continues.”

University of Sydney research associate Sheryl Chang said cases and hospitalisations will surge in the next few months.

“Our modelling suggests that new daily cases are likely to surge if we abruptly exit lockdown, reaching tens of thousands of cases per day across Australia by Christmas even with continued testing, tracing, isolation, quarantine and international travel restrictions,” Chang said.

“These post-lockdown surges have already been observed in many countries, even with relatively high vaccine coverage, such as Singapore.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet said this was not just a health crisis but an economic crisis and vaccination was key to freedom.

“In relation to masks indoors and offices, as we open up it’s very important to get people back to work as stay at home orders are lifted,” Perrottet said.

“We are incredibly confident and have to learn to live alongside this virus, and the key to living alongside this virus is a high vaccination rate.

“We can get, as the health minister said, close to 100 per cent we are going to get above 90 per cent.

“We have one of the highest vaccination rates not just in the country, globally, that means we can open up safely and never go back.”

In Victoria workers will not be able to return to the workplace until the 80 per cent rate is hit on November 5 when workers would be encouraged to work from home if they can or go to work if they are fully vaccinated.

Queensland’s roadmap is reviewed fortnightly, currently workers are required to wear masks until the restrictions move to stage three—when workers will be able to take their masks off if they can socially distance.

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