NSW ministers voted unanimously to free the state from its gruelling Covid lockdown on October 18, despite health chiefs arguing waiting a few more weeks for an 85 per cent double-jab rate would help to prevent future shutdowns.
Health officials including Dr Kerry Chant pleaded with Ms Berejiklian and her Liberal Party ministers to wait until vaccination coverage hits 80 to 85 per cent before throwing open the doors of the state’s pubs, cafes, restaurants, retails stores, gyms and hair salons.
But the premier and her ministers overruled the health chiefs, giving the green light for next month’s ‘tentative’ date when vaccination targets are due to reach 70 per cent, The Australian reported.
Under a ‘vaccine passport’ plan to be formally announced on Thursday at 11am, double-dosed residents – including those in the 12 LGAs areas of concern – will be given a wide range of new freedoms, including going to pubs, restaurants and shops.
But those who refuse to get the jab will be ‘left behind’ and remain locked out from newly-reopened venues.
Under plans agreed to during a crisis cabinet meeting on Wednesday, millions in NSW will finally lose the shackles of lockdown on October 18 – providing the 70 per cent fully-vaccinated target is met (pictured, pub-goers in Sydney’s The Rocks on Anzac Day 2021)
Health officials including Kerry Chant (pictured) pleaded with Gladys Berejiklian and her Liberal Party ministers to wait until vaccination coverage hits 80-85 per cent before throwing open the doors of the state’s pubs, cafes, restaurants, retails stores, gyms and hair salons
The premier is also set to declare that parts of regional NSW with low Covid case numbers will be freed from lockdown on Friday at 11:59pm.
The welcome news comes as Sydneysiders were told that regional holidays will soon also be permitted for the fully-vaccinated once jab coverage eclipses 80 per cent – a marker which could be met as early as late October.
Dr Chant at Wednesday night’s meeting warned state leaders that if the reopening goes ahead at just 70 per cent coverage, it could lead to a spike in cases and see the state quickly thrust back into lockdown.
COUNTDOWN TO FREEDOM: THE DATES YOU NEED TO KNOW
September 11: Some regional areas set free
The premier is expected to announce on Thursday several regional areas including the Mid and North Coast, New England, Riverina and Murrumbidgee, will emerge from lockdown at 11.59pm on Friday after almost a month of living under stay-at-home orders.
September 13: Vax picnics
Fully-vaccinated Sydneysiders will soon be able to enjoy picnics in the sun.
The ‘vax picnic’ rule means anyone living outside the 12 LGAs of concern can meet in a group of five for a picnic, but all must be double-jabbed.
October 18: ‘Freedom Day’
The date is likely to coincide with NSW reaching a 70 per cent vaccination rate which means pubs, restaurants, cafes, gyms and hair salons could reopen under the one person per 4sq/m rule to the fully-vaccinated only.
Non-essential shops would also be allowed to reopen.
Wedding and funerals would also go ahead but there will be limits on guests.
Venues such as night clubs however will not be included until higher vaccination rates are achieved.
Late October/Early November: Regional holidays begin
Once vaccination target reach 80 per cent, which could come as soon as late October, cooped-up Sydneysiders, including those in the city’s 12 LGAs of concern, will soon be able to pack their bags for a domestic holiday.
NSW recorded one of the deadliest days of the pandemic on Wednesday with nine fatalities – including a man in his 20s – and a further 1,480 new cases.
The chief health officer argued that reopening with such high case numbers could have a significant impact on the state’s healthcare system and result in increased hospitalisations if vaccination rates aren’t higher.
She pointed to recent examples in which highly-vaccinated nations such as Israel and the United Kingdom suffered a surge in new infections immediately after reopening.
But towards the end of the fiery meeting Dr Chant eventually lent her conditional support to the 70 per cent reopening target, as long as the reproductive rate of the virus drops below one by the time the lockdown is lifted.
An R-rate above one means exponential growth of infection.
The only way the Delta variant outbreak can begin to decline is if the R-rate drops below one, which it has not done since June.
NSW Ministers voted unanimously to release the state from its gruelling Covid lockdown on October 18, in an explosive late-night crisis cabinet meeting on Wednesday (pictured, Frankies nightclub in Sydney on June 1 2020 when the first lockdown ended)
Under the ‘vaccine passport’ plan set to be formally announced on Thursday at 11am, double-dosed residents – including those in the 12 LGAs areas of concern – will be given a wide range of new freedoms (pictured, diners at a Bondi eatery when restrictions eased in June last year)
WHAT CAN I DO ON OCTOBER 18?
YES *as long as you’re fully-vaccinated
Go to pubs and restaurants
Head back to the gym
Shop in non-essential stores
Go to nightclubs
Host a house party
While the long-awaited date is being dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, there will still be a number of restrictions in place and venues such as nightclubs will not be included in the initial reopening.
Bars, restaurants and shops are set to reopen to double-jabbed customers, with capacity limits such as those seen after the first lockdown eased in June 2020 also likely to apply.
Anyone working in newly-opened industries will have to be fully-vaccinated and the one person per four sq/m rule will likely be in place.
Guests at weddings and funerals will also be capped although the exact details are yet to be revealed.
Those entering a venue must prove their vaccination status by scanning in via QR code using the Service NSW app.
Anyone who has not received the jab will not receive the same freedoms and be refused entry.
Premier Berejiklian on Tuesday hinted that some highly vaccinated suburbs may be released from lockdown earlier than others as part of a trial, sparking debate that wealthy suburbs of Sydney were be favoured over neighbourhoods in the west.
She said the vaccine passport technology currently being developed would need to be tested before being put into use state-wide.
‘Where we decide to have any pilots will be up to the health advice,’ she said.
‘Our Service NSW app, which allows people to check in and also indicate that they’re fully-vaccinated, has to be trialled.
Those living in Sydney’s 12 LGAs of concern will also be released from lockdown on October 18 as long as they have been fully-vaccinated (pictured, Bankstown shoppers on Wednesday)
‘We’ll get advice from health as to where the best locations are for that, and I envisage it’ll be a variety of locations to make sure that we get it right by the time we open up.’
Critics have said opening up some areas before others in a trial would sow further division in the already divided city.
The cabinet decided on Wednesday that when a full-reopening happens, not a trial, it will be to all of NSW – regardless of ‘hotspots’.
Cooped-up double dosed Sydneysiders – including those in the city’s 12 LGAs of concern, will also soon be able to pack their bags for a domestic holiday as early as the end of October when vaccination rates are projected to hit 80 per cent.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced holiday-hungry residents and those hoping to visit family will be permitted to travel within their own state as long as vaccination target stay on track.
‘The vaccination rates in regional and rural NSW have to continue to rise on par with what’s happening with metropolitan Sydney,’ Mr Barilaro said on Wednesday.
Fully vaccinated Sydneysiders will finally be able to get a haircut after almost 12 weeks in lockdown on October 18
Anyone working in newly opened industries will have to be fully-vaccinated and the one person per four sq/m rule will likely apply. Proof of vaccination will be available on the Service NSW app (pictured, a mocked-up image of a vaccine passport)
The plan to allow tourists back into the state’s regional and rural areas is expected to give long-suffering business owners a much-needed cash injection.
The earmarked date for when 80 per cent of the NSW population is fully-vaccinated is set for the end of October or the first part of November.
When this benchmark is achieved fully-vaccinated Sydneysiders will be allowed to travel freely through the state with a special travel permit.
The travel permit will be accessed on the Service NSW app, with the deputy premier warning the document will be essential for movement throughout the state.
However, as the NSW Premier has repeatedly warned, unvaccinated residents will miss out on a travel.
Cooped-up double dosed Sydneysiders – including those in the city’s 12 LGAs of concern, will soon be able to pack their bags for a domestic holiday as early as the end of October when vaccination rates hit 80 per cent (pictured, thermal pools in the Snowy Mountains)
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro (pictured) said holiday-hungry residents and those hoping to visit family, will be permitted to travel within their own state as long as vaccination target stay on track
‘Don’t be left behind when we start opening up,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘When we open up at 70 per cent double dose, it will be only for those who are vaccinated.
‘There’s time now to get your first dose and fit in your second dose before New South Wales starts opening up. I want to make that message as strong as possible.’
The ABC reported that several regional areas with low Covid cases including the Mid and North Coast, New England, Riverina and Murrumbidgee, will emerge from lockdown at 11:59 on Friday after almost a month of living under stay-at-home orders.
‘The most likely areas, if you’re going to consider it, is areas with no cases, it’s as simple as that,’ Mr Barilaro said.
‘We’ll make those decisions and let the community know shortly… there is an opportunity to open but I would argue it would be in a restricted environment, not like the environment pre-lockdown.’
The plan to allow tourists back into the state’s regional and rural areas is expected to give long-suffering business owners a much-needed cash injection (pictured, Sydney Domestic Airport before the recent lockdown)
Several regional areas with low Covid cases including the Mid and North Coast, New England, Riverina and Murrumbidgee (pictured), are on track to emerge from lockdown at 11:59 on Friday after almost a month of living under stay-at-home orders.
Health authorities meanwhile have detected the virus at a sewage treatment plant in Bonny Hills, 23km south of Port Macquarie, despite the area having no known cases.
‘Regional and rural NSW do have a level of anxiety about people leaving Sydney,’ Mr Barilaro acknowledged.
But under the permit system he said police have the ability to stop anyone entering regional areas who is not authorised.
As of Tuesday, NSW vaccination rates are higher than anticipated with more than 75 per cent of the state’s over-16 population having received their first Covid jab.
About 42 per cent have received their second shot, with the state on track to meet the 70 percent target by mid-October if the current trend continues.
On the October 18 date, gym junkies will once again be able to get their fix if they are fully vaccinated (pictured, City Gym in Darlinghurst after the 2020 lockdown ended in Sydney)
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns ‘less likely but possible’; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival