Children and teenagers living under lockdown in the Illawarra can now have friends visit them at home, under a new 'friends bubble' system.
From noon on Tuesday, each young person aged 18 and under is allowed to have two designated friends form part of a bubble, which permits them to visit each other's homes.
All people over 18 living in the homes must be fully vaccinated, and the friends must live in the same local government area or within five kilometres of each other.
The bubble must also always consist of the same three friends.
Parents or carers must not interact with other adults when dropping children off at their friends' homes.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government was able to allow the change because of the state's good vaccination rates.
"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," Ms Berejiklian said.
Zoe Robinson, the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People, yesterday said the new allowance was the direct result of what young people had been saying: "that they want to be able to see their friends, they want to be able to do it safely, and the reason they want to do that is for their own wellness, and because they've really felt the isolation during this time".
"And this gives them an opportunity to connect, to care for each other, to see each other in ways they have been unable to do," Ms Robinson said.
A Year 9 student, Alyssa, spoke at Tuesday's press conference about that isolation children and young people had experienced.
"Helping everyone feel connected will undoubtedly benefit their mental health in this time, and for children and young people, this will also be able to impact their studies, because I know from personal experience that there is a lot of lack of motivation regarding schooling due to lockdown and not being able to see our friends," Alyssa said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it had been challenging for young people to not spend time at home with their friends, and mental health issues had been a concern.
It was critical, he said, that adults in the bubble households were fully vaccinated.
"We've got to keep our young people as safe as we can, we've got to recognise the need for mental health to be recognised, and just socialisation, all those things that young people do as part of their growing up, but also keep them safe," Mr Hazzard said.
"To the parents out there, please make sure the children are coming from another household [where] the adults in that household are doubly vaccinated, and you are doubly vaccinated."
People can already gather in groups of five outside in lockdown areas if everyone aged 16 and over is fully vaccinated.
Children under 12 are not included in the five-person cap.