NSW and Victoria announce eased restrictions, scrap density limits from tomorrow

Dancefloors will be permitted to reopen, and a ban on singing and dancing by patrons at NSW venues will end

A number of current restrictions on indoor venues will be scrapped from tomorrow (February 18) in both Victoria and New South Wales.

Earlier today, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that from 6pm tomorrow, density limits will be removed at hospitality venues and indoor dancefloors will be permitted to reopen.

“This is exactly what we said we would do, we would have rules on for not a moment longer than they would be needed,” Andrews commented at the time.

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Meanwhile, density limits will also be scrapped and singing and dancing will return to indoor venues in New South Wales tomorrow, a week and a half earlier than the state government had flagged.

Since early January, a one person per two square metres density restriction has been in place, while singing and dancing by patrons was banned in hospitality venues, entertainment facilities, nightclubs and similar settings.

Today, the Premier announced that the density restrictions and the ban on singing and dancing in hospitality venues, nightclubs and similar settings will be scrapped tomorrow. QR code check-ins will still be required for nightclubs and music festivals with more than 1,000 people, but not for other venues.

Singing and dancing will remain prohibited at music festivals until next Friday (February 25), when the 20,000-person cap for festivals will also be dropped. Additionally, masks will no longer be mandatory in indoor settings – with the exception of “indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people”, public transport, hospitals and aged care facilities.

The easing of restrictions comes as Victoria reported 8,501 new cases today, with 401 people in hospital. NSW today reported 9,995 new positive tests, with 1,447 current hospitalisations.

Today’s announcements follow a tough summer for artists, venues and event organisers in both NSW and Victoria alike. In late January, survey data showed that almost half of Victoria’s summer events faced cancellation due to COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions.

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Last month saw Sydney’s King Street Carnival and Victoria’s UNIFY Gathering postponed – both events are now set to take place in March. Tamworth Country Music Festival was also postponed, and touring pride festival Summer Camp was pushed back in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Meanwhile, the NSW edition of the Grapevine Gathering music and wine festival, regional festival Good Times and Sydney iteration of Full Tilt were cancelled altogether.

Restrictions in NSW prompted some criticism from artists, who slammed a perceived double standard in how the rules were policed between live music events and other events, such as sporting events and religious gatherings.

That criticism was amplified when footage emerged from a Hillsong Youth summer camp in NSW that showed attendees singing and dancing along to performances, with the majority not observing social distancing or wearing masks. In response, artists including Peking Duk, Illy and many more formed the satirical supergroup Thrillsong.

“We firmly support measures to protect our fans and communities and to safeguard our health care workers, we simply ask that if rules are made, they apply to everyone equally,” the group commented in a statement at the time. “We need to be in this together.” Hillsong later said it would follow a NSW Health directive to cease singing and dancing at the camp.

This month, Sydney venue the Lansdowne Hotel announced it would cease hosting live music at the end of April. The venue had been under the stewardship of Mary’s Group since 2017, but operators revealed its landlords had decided to demolish the gig room in order to renovate it into hostel accommodation.

Earlier this week, operators of the Curtin Hotel in Melbourne confirmed the pub and venue would close this year. The building’s owners, they said, would not be extending their lease after it ends in November, in order to “likely” make way for apartments.

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