The NSW government backflip on mandating masks in Sydney has been applauded by peak bodies who have called for the change since the first COVID-19 outbreak.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday said the reversal in health policy balanced the risk and security to citizens while keeping businesses open.
"What we want to do is make sure we're not in a situation where we are restricting people's ability to go about their business," Ms Berejiklian said on Saturday.
"In fact, we want to increase economic activity, not diminish economic activity, and mask-wearing in these settings will ensure we have the confidence to do that."
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay has been calling for face masks on public transport since June, saying the premier "had no choice" after strong support from epidemiologists, frontline workers, doctors and health officials.
"I just wish the premier hadn't needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into making this decision, it is the right decision," Ms McKay said on Saturday.
"It's about keeping the economy open, and it's about keeping people in jobs, it's about managing risk, and the premier should have implemented this some time ago but we welcome the fact that she's now proceeded down this path."
Victoria moved swiftly to reinstate mask requirements at all indoor venues a day after its first three coronavirus cases were detected following 60 virus-free days.
The Australian Medical Association welcomed Saturday's announcement, which provides for a $200 fine for those breaking the rules.
"This is an important decision, and an acknowledgment that wearing face masks is one of our simplest weapons against the spread of coronavirus," AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said in a statement.
The AMA had also come out in force against the state government's earlier refusal to budge on the issue, saying it was an effective solution for preventing community transmission.
The AMA has been calling for compulsory face masks since the first outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in 2020, and encouraged the premier to reconsider allowing crowds at the upcoming Australia-India Test match to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
NSW AMA President Dr Danielle McMullen said mandatory masks was a crucial decision given more people would soon be returning to work, increasing numbers on public transport.
"Masks create an effective barrier against aerosol droplets which transmit the disease," Ms McMullen said.
From midnight on Saturday, masks will be mandatory in shopping centres, on public transport, in places of worship, hair and beauty premises and entertainment venues such as a cinema in Greater Sydney areas - including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains.
All hospitality staff are also required to wear one, with anyone disobeying the health order to be fined $200 from Monday.
Australian Associated Press