International News Sep 21, 2021 7:06 PM EST

Australian state announces 'friends bubble' allowing those under 18 to gather with two other friends in person

In the latest pandemic set of regulations to come from the Australia state of New South Wales, those 18 and under will now be able to gather with a small group of friends in person.

Australian state announces 'friends bubble' allowing those under 18 to gather with two other friends in person
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

In the latest pandemic set of regulations to come from the Australia state of New South Wales, those 18 and under will now be able to gather with a small group of friends in person.

Taking effect at noon on September 21, the government announced that "Children and teenagers aged 18 years and under will be able to create a 'friends bubble' to allow home visits provided the adults in their homes are fully vaccinated, under an easing of restrictions for school holidays."

Under the new rules, those in that age range who live in stay-at-home areas and areas of concern across New South Wales will be able to create a bubble off three friends to visit each other's homes.

In order for a bubble to be created, the following conditions outlined by the New South Wales government must be met:

Each child is allowed to have two designated friends, and these two friends must always stay the same.

Everyone over 18 within these households must be fully vaccinated.

All friends must reside within 5km of each other or within the same Local Government Area.

If the child is being dropped off by a parent or caregiver, that person dropping them off must not stay to interact with other parents or care givers.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the change came with the improvement in vaccination rates within New South Wales.

"Parents and children have had a difficult few months, trying to balance both work, often from home, as well as home schooling," Berejiklian said. "This change will hopefully make a big difference for families during the school holidays and allow young children and teenagers to catch up and reconnect with their friends."

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that the government has tried to "strike a balance" between "the best possible health outcomes" and easing the pressures on those in lockdown.

"These latest changes are aimed at giving children more opportunities to be together and balances COVID safety with their mental health and wellbeing," Hazzard said.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Sarah Mitchell noted that this change would also benefit older students, allowing the creation of study bubbles ahead of the Higher School Certificate (HSC).

"Year 12 students have had a stressful few months, and with the HSC approaching, a study bubble is a great idea to help students maintain motivation, receive support from a classmate and continue their preparation for the upcoming exams,"  Mitchell said.

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