President's Message - Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order 2021(NSW)

08/01/2021

I refer to the Public Health (COVID-19 Mandatory Face Coverings) Order 2021 (NSW) (Order). The Order requires persons to wear a fitted face covering at all times when the person is in an indoor area in any of the following premises, or parts of premises, in Greater Sydney — ‘retail premises, or business premises, that provide goods or services to members of the public who attend the premises’.

The Order provides a non-exhaustive list of businesses where the wearing of masks is required. The list concentrates on businesses that have a high level of traffic from a public perspective (for example bank branches and Service NSW), or who provide services in such a manner that the 1.5 metre distancing requirement cannot be complied with (eg beauticians). The businesses referred to would generally have industry specific COVIDSafe Plans which have been updated where it is mandatory to wear face masks. The businesses listed are those that are consistently referred to by the Government and Health authorities when discussing the requirement to wear face masks. Note that in Victoria, by way of comparison, it has been expressly provided that those working indoors in offices wear masks, unless an exemption applies.

However, in NSW there is no industry COVIDSafe plan that would apply to the traditional chambers structure.

While chambers should rely on their own advice, which takes into account their own circumstances, chambers should have the General COVIDSafe plan in place and although this does not require mandatory face mask wearing, given the wording of the Order and the services provided by chambers, individual chambers should consider whether:

  1. Those persons on reception desks where public traffic occurs in chambers should wear masks; and

  2. Barristers meeting with solicitors or clients in their chambers should wear masks if the social distancing requirement of 1.5 metres cannot be met.


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