Australia begins to open up
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory revealed their roadmaps for opening up on Monday, leading the way for the rest of Australia.
Australia’s biggest economy will have limited relief from restrictions on October 18, when its vaccination coverage reaches 70 per cent. The ACT will hit 80 per cent fully vaccinated by October 15 and will relax restrictions a little more.
The ACT is at 60 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone over the age of 12. 86 per cent of the same population have received the first injection. The ACT government believes that 90 per cent of the population over 12 will be fully vaccinated by October 28 when it is nearly fully opened up. The ACT government is pushing to have 100 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated by the beginning of December.
It is important to note that the ACT government is opposed to discrimination against the unvaccinated, so there will be no need for vaccination certificates or vaccination checking in Canberra.
The national capital will have the first taste of freedom at midnight on Friday. Two people will be able to visit another household, people will be allowed to spend four hours outside and national parks will be opened to the public.
On October 15 restaurants and cafes will be reopened, some students will be allowed back into schools and there will be more retail activity.
On 28 October there will be more business activity including bigger numbers in restaurants, cafes and pubs, people in shops and students returning to school that week or the week after.
The ACT government says that interstate travel can resume after this, but this is dependent on other jurisdictions.
The NSW relaxation on October 18 is more problematic. This will occur when 70 per cent of the state population over 16 is fully vaccinated. As Stephen Duckett of the Grattan Institute has pointed out this means that just over half of the total population will be fully protected and that there will be a lot of people vulnerable to infection.
At the moment, there are restaurants all over Sydney taking bookings from 18 October even though there will be caps on the number of customers. Masks will be done away with and 10 people will be able to visit homes.
However, privileges will be limited to the fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated will only get the same freedoms on 1 December when it is estimated that 90 per cent of the state will be fully vaccinated.
Travel to the regions will not happen until there is 80 per cent vaccination coverage.
On Monday, the number of new infections in NSW fell dramatically to 780. This has been ascribed to the higher vaccination rate. The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said hospitalisations were also down and that she was optimistic that opening up would not put undue pressure on the hospital system. Experts like Stephen Duckett disagree with her, but at the moment the outcome is unclear.
If NSW and the ACT manage their wind-back of lockdown without too much pressure on the system and a surge in hospitalisations and deaths, then it will provide encouragement to other states that they can open up without too much concern.
Victoria is introducing a pilot scheme for opening up, with vaccination passports, in the regions.
It is time to start feeling positive.