City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore is making it easier for hospitality venues to keep their doors open as a fourth wave of Covid threatens to take hold of the nation.
The council has already sacrificed $5.7m in revenue by waiving fees for outdoor dining permits since May 2021.
Due to expire in June, it will now be extended by two years to June 2025 – at a cost of $4m.
Cafes, restaurants, bars and cultural venues can apply for an outdoor dining permit on the footpath or on the road space outside their venue provided it complies with the eligibility requirements.
“With the threat of a new Covid wave and ongoing economic uncertainty, there is a continuing need to encourage outdoor dining,” Ms Moore said during her mayoral minute on Monday.
“We need to continue to support businesses during this time and ensure alfresco dining is embedded in the streets of Sydney.”
Ms Moore issued a warning to landlords who might see the fee waiver as an opportunity to hike up rents or “unfairly favour” certain tenants.
“Our efforts to help businesses should not be seen by others as an opportunity to increase rents or unfairly favour some in the community over others,” she said.
Health experts have urged people to work from home where they can, as cases in NSW have doubled in a fortnight.
There were 27,869 people across NSW diagnosed with Covid-19 in the week ending November 17.
Last week, NSW Health changed its Covid-19 risk rating from green to amber, while Covid cases in NSW and Victoria have doubled in just a fortnight.
Hassan Valley, an associate professor in epidemiology at Deakin University, said on Monday that new variants XBB and BQ.1 were driving case numbers as they became more dominant.
He said people needed to start thinking about “preventive behaviours” to reduce their risk of catching the virus as cases climb.
“Maybe this is a point also where people, where they have the flexibility, should work from home a little bit more than what may become normal,” he said.
Health authorities last week recommended NSW residents wear masks indoors and on public transport if social distancing wasn’t available.
NSW residents also have to wear masks in all areas of hospitals.
Health authorities in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT have strongly recommended a return to wearing masks in public indoor areas and on public transport but have shied away from reintroducing mandates.