Hundreds of thousands of NSW residents are set to come out of lockdown this weekend after the Deputy Premier announced local government areas without a COVID case for 14 days would be released.
- Lockdowns are lifted in parts of regional New South Wales
- Masks will remain mandatory for all indoor public venues
- Deputy Premier John Barilaro says vaccination is “the ultimate passport to freedoms”
The eased restrictions will be applied in regional centres such as Albury, Wagga Wagga, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Lismore, Byron Bay and Griffith.
Mr Barilaro made it clear that the government would not hesitate to reintroduce lockdown if required.
“If there is an active case in your community, you will go back into lockdown for 14 days,” he said.
“There are a couple of local government areas that they are keeping eye on and it is possible before even Saturday you could go into lockdown.”
Mr Barilaro urged people not to take the eased restrictions as a sign that they could relax.
“People in regional and NSW understand that vaccination is the ultimate passport to freedoms.”
Under the eased restrictions people will be able to have up to five people in their homes, 20 people in outdoor settings and up to 500 people at ticketed and outdoor seated events.
The four-square metre rule will apply for indoor venues including hospitality, retail, hairdressers, cinemas and gyms.
Sporting facilities, such as swimming pools, will be able to reopen and up to 500 people can attend ticketed and seated outdoor seating events but community sport won’t be allowed.
Up to 50 people can attend weddings and funerals but guests must be seated while eating and drinking, dancing will be allowed at weddings.
Schools will reopen and major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can host up to 5,000 people as long as they stick to the four square metre rule.
Caravan parks and camping grounds will reopen and carpooling will be permitted.
Masks will remain mandatory for all indoor public venues, but only hospitality staff will be required to wear a mask outdoors.
‘Disappointed’ mayor in Mid Coast LGA
While parts of the Mid North Coast will come out of lockdown, the Mid Coast LGA at the southern end of the region is one of 38 regional council areas that will not, after a case was detected in Booral this week.
The Mid North Coast is one of the state’s larger LGAs with a land size of more than 10,000 kmsq and a population of almost 95,000.
Mid Coast Council Mayor David West said remaining in lockdown would be difficult, but he supported the government’s decisions.
“I am disappointed as any mayor would be for the community, but I must stress that I support wholeheartedly the government’s attitude in relation to lockdowns because this is such a virulent, horrible disease that we need to be protected from ourselves and that’s what’s happening with these lockdowns,” he said.
Cr West said local residents had already come through many challenges in recent years.
“We will get through this, we are a very resilient community, we have come out of the worst fires, the worst floods… this is not a full stop, it’s a comma in the progress we are moving forward to,” he said.
“Please look to each other, the social impact on our community with this situation on top of the other disasters I mentioned, will be significant if we don’t look after each other.
Cr West said hopefully the lockdown in the Mid Coast LGA
It has been more than 400 days since the Riverina had a local case living in the region, five months on the North Coast and three weeks for the Mid North Coast.
Wagga Wagga café owner Matt Cunneen thinks it’s too early for the Riverina to be released from lockdown.
He’s currently only rostering two of his 14 staff but would rather have certainty that the lockdown is being lifted for good, rather than allowing the virus to spread and potentially going back in again.
“We haven’t endured it this long to open back up and let it back in the city,” he said.
“We’ve done pretty good in Wagga as you can see against some towns in the big smoke where I don’t think they’re really just fighting COVID in the big smoke, they’re fighting stupidity.
In the Riverina’s south, owner of a Deniliquin barber shop Natalie Brown was anxious to see the eased restriction include hairdressers.
Ms Brown said she’s applied to get business support but “hasn’t seen a cent.”
“I’m just relying on my family and my partner just to get food on the table,” she said.
She says she is excited to get back to work.
“I can’t wait to be back in the shop and cutting hair and chatting with everybody,” she said.