Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Port Stephens and Cessnock add COVID-19 cases in Hunter New England's 36

SCHOOL close contacts won't be forced into isolation under changes to COVID-19 rules coming into force from Monday.

The adjustments mean close contact students must get a PCR test as soon as possible after they are notified, and return to school if it is negative on the proviso they undergo rapid antigen testing at home for the next seven days and return no positive results.

Schools will no longer close for contact tracing, with the exception of multiple cases at the same school.

Performance including musical instruments that rely on breath, singing and chanting are also allowed outdoors at schools.

The government also mooted changes to the rules beyond 95 per cent or December 15's relaxation.

Masks will be necessary only on public transport, at airports and for indoor hospitality staff without vaccinations once the first of those milestones passes.

Density limits for venues will go, with QR check-ins only at high-risk sites including hospitals, aged and disability care, gyms, places of worship, funerals, hospitality venues, indoor music festivals with 1000 or more patrons and personal services including hairdressers. Businesses will not be required to mandate patrons are vaccinated, but are entitled to keep requiring proof.

The Hunter added 20 fresh cases in Thursday's update.

Lake Macquarie had five cases each in Macquarie Hills and Cardiff, with another in Barnsley.

Newcastle's cases were spread between more suburbs, with single cases in Jesmond, Merewether, Newcastle and North Lambton. Hamilton had two cases.

Port Stephens' two cases were from Corlette and Shoal Bay, while Kurri Kurri was home to Cessnock's infection.

This story New school rules for COVID-19 cases in classrooms from Monday first appeared on Newcastle Herald.