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Common questions about face mask rules

Wearing a face mask is mandatory in some indoor settings in Greater Sydney. Learn about when you need to wear a face mask, when you can remove it and who is exempt.

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Face must be worn in some places

In Greater Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains) face masks are mandatory in certain indoor settings.

Airports and domestic commercial flights 

From Tuesday 12 January 2021, face masks must be worn indoors at all NSW airports and on domestic commercial flights into or out of NSW, including when the flight is landing at or taking off from the airport.

You may be fined $200 on the spot for not wearing a face mask.

Children 12 years and under are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable. 

Masks should not be worn by toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk.

Who needs to wear a mask

You do not have to wear a face mask at home or when visiting someone else’s home. However, NSW Health strongly recommends wearing face masks if you are unable to physically distance from people you do not live with.

If you are hosting visitors, try to host your gathering outdoors. 

If hosting your gathering indoors, choose a large, well-ventilated room. Open doors and windows if possible.

Ask your guests to stay home if they feel unwell and to get tested.

If you are unwell, don’t have visitors and get tested immediately.

Remember to wash your hands regularly and provide hand sanitiser for your guests.

You do not need to wear a mask if you are visiting regional NSW from Greater Sydney. 

The requirement to wear face covering only applies within the Greater Sydney area, which includes Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast. 

Check the requirements for wearing a mask if you are taking a flight to your destination.

You can take off your face mask when you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and seeing the mouth is essential.

It is important to keep 1.5 metres apart, where practicable. 

A person may remove their mask if they are:

  • eating or drinking
  • communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • at work and the nature of the work makes the wearing of fitted face covering a risk to the person's, or another persons' health and safety, or means clear enunciation or visibility of your mouth is essential
  • asked to remove their mask for identity purposes.
Eating and drinking

You can take your face mask off when you are eating or drinking. 

To avoid the risk of contamination, NSW Health recommends you put on a new, clean mask when you have finished eating or drinking. If this is not possible, remember to wash or sanitise your hands. 

You should always use hand sanitiser or wash your hands before and after changing your face mask.

Remember, stay 1.5 metres apart from people you don’t live with.

Masks should not be worn by toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk.

Children 12 years and under are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

The public health order includes a number of lawful reasons for not wearing a mask.

Children 12 years and under, are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

You are not required to wear a mask if you have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, that makes wearing a mask unsuitable. For example, if you have a skin condition, an intellectual disability, autism or trauma, you are not required to wear a mask.  

You do not need documentary evidence stating that you are exempted from wearing a face mask under the public health order. 

Regulatory officers are focussed on compliance rather than enforcement. 

If you are stopped by a regulatory officer in a setting where masks are mandatory, they will ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask.

Officers will only issue penalty notices if you clearly refuse to wear a mask without a lawful reason.

If you have a condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you may wish to ask your registered health practitioner or disability care provider to issue a letter confirming this. However, this is not a requirement under the public health order.

In other circumstances, if you are eating or drinking, or there is an emergency, you will not be expected to continue wearing a mask.

Residents of aged care facilities are not required to wear face masks. However, visitors to aged care facilities do need to wear face masks.

It may not be suitable for some people with a disability to wear a face mask. 

If you have a condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you may wish to ask your registered health practitioner or disability care provider to issue a letter confirming this. However, this is not a requirement under the public health order.

Even if you wear traditional or religious garments, you still need to wear a fitted face mask in the designated indoor settings. 

There are face masks available that can be worn with traditional and religious garments. If you are wearing a face covering, like a veil or scarf, it is recommended that you wear your face mask underneath. 

The face mask needs to fit securely around your face and be designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection. 

Types of masks

  • Wash or sanitise your hands before putting on or taking off your mask.
  • Ensure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face.
  • Refrain from touching the front of your mask while wearing or removing it.
  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your neck or under your nose.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Wash and dry reusable masks after use and store in a clean, dry place.

For more information on how to wear a face mask and cloth masks, go to our General advice on face masks page.

Under the public health order, a "fitted face covering" means a mask or other covering that

  1. fits securely around the face, and
  2. is designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection.

Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly.

Learn more about using single-use and reusable cloth face masks.

Face shields are not a substitute for face masks however people who are unable to wear a mask may find it easier to wear a face shield. 

If this is the case for you, ensure the face shield covers the sides of your face and below the chin.

Clean and disinfect reusable face shields after each use. 

Wear disposable face shields only once. 

When to wear a face mask

In the Greater Sydney area face masks are mandatory in certain indoor settings, including:

  • shopping (retail, supermarkets and shopping centres)
  • public/shared transport (including waiting and travelling)
  • indoor entertainment (including cinemas and theatres)
  • places of worship
  • hair and beauty premises
  • visitors to residential aged care facilities
  • gaming areas in licensed premises
  • staff in hospitality venues

From Tuesday 12 January 2021, masks must be worn

  • in indoor areas of NSW airports, including passenger waiting areas
  • during a flight, when the plane is 
    • landing at, or taking off from the airport or
    • flying in NSW airspace.

A $200 on the spot fine will apply if you do not comply.

Learn more about the face mask rules for Greater Sydney.

Hospitality staff with roles that deal directly with members of the public are required to wear face coverings. This applies to all hospitality venues, whether indoor or outdoor.

Patrons are not required to wear masks at hospitality venues. 

It is not mandatory to wear a mask if you are picking up take-away from a hospitality venue, however it is strongly recommended to wear a mask if you are waiting indoors. Remember to always keep 1.5 metres apart and practise good hand hygiene. 

From Tuesday 12 January 2021, you must wear a face mask when 

  • indoors at a NSW airport, including the passenger waiting area and 
  • during a domestic commercial flight when it is 
    • landing or taking off from a NSW airport or 
    • flying in NSW airspace.

Removal of masks by flight crew and airport workers

Members of the flight crew and airport workers may remove their face mask when they are

  • not interacting directly with passengers or
  • on an aircraft without any passengers onboard.

Airport workers includes

  • engineers and technical staff
  • cleaners
  • baggage handlers
  • people delivering or removing food and other items in connection with an aircraft
  • airline employees
  • law enforcement and border security officers.

Face masks are mandatory in community pharmacies in the Greater Sydney area.

Outside of the Greater Sydney area, NSW Health strongly recommends that staff and customers wear face masks while at a pharmacy.

Wearing masks at a pharmacy will assist to reduce the risk of COVID transmission.

Other ways to protect yourself and others at a pharmacy include:

  • practising physical distancing and avoiding crowds
  • washing your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser before you enter and when you leave a pharmacy
  • coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue.

  • The person leading the funeral service does not need to wear a mask, nor does anybody while delivering a eulogy or similar as part of the funeral service.

  • Attendees at the service need to be wearing a mask indoors, unless exempt.
  • Up to a maximum of 100 people can attend a funeral.

Music performances during religious services, weddings and funerals

  • Where music performance is part of a service (religious, weddings or funerals), masks do not need to be worn by the performer if impractical for the performance such as wind instruments or singing.

Singing and chanting advice

  • No more than 5 performers should sing indoors, with 1.5 metres between performers and 5 metres between performers and the audience.
  • In indoor areas, audience members and congregants should not participate in singing or chanting.

It is not mandatory to wear a face mask at the gym. However, it is recommended that when you can wear a mask while exercising, you do. 

Gyms are a high-risk venue for COVID-19 transmission. Remember to always wipe down equipment before and after use, stay 1.5 metres apart from others and always sign-in. 

Don’t go to the gym if you’re unwell. If you have even the slightest of symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 immediately and stay home while waiting for your test result. 

Workers in businesses such as massage parlours, nail salons, beauty salons, tanning salons and waxing salons are required to wear masks.  

Clients are not required to wear face masks however NSW Health strongly recommends that you wear a mask when it is reasonably practicable to do so, including if you are waiting indoors. You can remove your face mask temporarily when it is necessary to complete the service.

Remember to practise good hand hygiene.

  • Where music performance is part of a service (religious, weddings or funerals), masks do not need to be worn by the performer if impractical for the performance such as wind instruments or singing.

Singing and chanting advice

  • No more than 5 performers should sing indoors, with 1.5 metres between performers and 5 metres between performers and the audience.
  • In indoor areas, audience members and congregants should not participate in singing or chanting.

Face masks are mandatory in certain indoor settings, including some businesses. 

It is not mandatory for staff to wear masks in office environments, but it is highly recommended when staff are unable physically distance. 

Managers or businesses may choose to ask staff to wear masks. 

People in office environments who can’t physically distance may remove a mask where the nature of the person’s work makes the wearing of a mask a risk to the person’s, or another person’s health and safety. 

View a list of premises where masks are mandatory

Face masks are mandatory in certain indoor settings, including some businesses. It is not mandatory for staff to wear masks whilst working at early childhood centres, but it is highly recommended. Managers or businesses may choose to ask staff to wear masks. 

  • There is no requirement to wear a mask at a wedding or in wedding photographs.
  • During a wedding service, the person leading the service does not need to wear a mask, nor does the wedding party. This includes the wedding couple whilst they say their vows.
  • If a wedding occurs in a place of worship as part of a religious service, attendees at the service need to wear a mask indoors, unless exempt.
  • Up to a maximum of 100 people can attend a wedding.

Music performances during religious services, weddings and funerals

  • Where music performance is part of a service (religious, weddings or funerals), masks do not need to be worn by the performer if impractical for the performance such as wind instruments or singing.

Singing and chanting advice

  • No more than 5 performers should sing indoors, with 1.5 metres between performers and 5 metres between performers and the audience.
  • In indoor areas, audience members and congregants should not participate in singing or chanting.

 

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