New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has announced the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on churches in his state, with 300 people allowed at religious gatherings from this Friday (subject to the four-square-metre rule).
Mr Hazzard acknowledged church leaders had been frustrated by having to turn away attendees under the previous restriction of 100 people. He added that the increased number would make a “huge difference”.
Singing during church gatherings, though, is still not permitted. In addition, Hazzard strongly advised service attendees to wear a mask.
Asked about recent frustration expressed by church leaders in the media prior to today’s announcement, Hazzard said some exemptions already had been granted to religious groups who have approached his office. So far, exemptions have been granted to St Mary’s Cathedral, St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, and the Central Synagogue.
Mr Hazzard said there was the possibility of an exemption for Hillsong Church – whose Senior Pastor Brian Houston took to Twitter to complain about the restriction this week – to allow more than 300 people, given their church in Sydney’s north-west can accommodate 4,000 people.
“But I’m not going to put a number on that because that requires the expertise of the Chief Health Officer and her team to look for each individual situation,” the Health Minister said.