NSW charts post-lockdown roadmap, backpedals on Sydneysiders visiting regions
The NSW Government has lifted the lid on what life after lockdowns will look like for residents that have endured endless hardships and heartbreaks across the state since the month of June.
Members of the community will now eagerly anticipate the Monday after the state hits 80 per cent double dose COVID-19 vaccination targets as various freedoms are set to be guaranteed to those who are fully vaccinated.
The broad range of freedoms outlined in the roadmap includes home visits of up to 10 people, access to hospitality venues and the return of community sport.
The plans for the state to begin reopening are underpinned by the restoration of freedoms for the fully jabbed once NSW has 70 per cent vaccine coverage.
It is expected the state will reach that milestone by the 11th of October.
Furthermore, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated that caps on weddings and funerals will be removed provided all attendees are fully vaccinated.
For the fully vaccinated, customer caps for businesses such as beauticians and hairdressers will also be removed as per the roadmap.
Berejiklian endorsed the idea that as the state draws nearer to exiting its lengthy lockdown that hard work must still be undertaken to get citizens vaccinated:
“Vaccination remains our ticket to freedom so we need to work even harder to get jabs in arms, to help stop the spread, minimise outbreaks and ensure people are protected when we open up.”
“I know people are counting down the minutes until we reach 70 per cent double dose and the freedoms that will provide, and today we are providing further certainty by announcing the 80 per cent roadmap and future settings.”
Travel bans to the regions were set to be lifted upon NSW reaching a 70 per cent vaccination target, though today’s announcement confirmed that travel restrictions will remain in place until the state reaches an 80 per cent metric.
Helen Waldron, NSW Head to the peak employer association Ai Group has said that today’s announcement is bitter-sweet news for regionally-based NSW citizens.
“The swings and roundabouts of today's announcement have seen the welcome news accompanied by new restrictions that will apply in Regional NSW from 80 per cent double dose to 1 December, where only fully vaccinated people will be permitted in hospitality and non-critical retail that are currently able to open to all.”
The announcement comes after a multipartisan plea was formed at the end of last week, comprising of Nationals MPs Geoff Provest, Chris Gulaptis and MLC Ben Franklin, along with Labor MP Janelle Saffin and Greens MP Tamara Smith, which urged the NSW government to rethink legalising regional travel for Sydneysiders pending high vaccination rates in metropolitan Sydney.
Waldron also expressed her disapproval of the continuation of travel bans to regional NSW for Sydneysiders.
"Also of concern is the extension of regional travel bans. Travel to the regions will now not be allowed until the 80% vaccination rate is reached rather than the proposed 70% rate. This decision delays a much-needed economic boost to the regions as well as keeping families and friends apart for longer.
"For businesses, two critical issues remain unclear. Employers need to know what will happen if they have a positive case in their workplace once we’re at the higher vaccination levels and also what compliance regime they will be required to face when determining access only for the fully vaccinated. Both are still being worked through, which is disappointing, as in the meantime, businesses and the community are left wondering.
Flownews24 published an article last week detailing the pushback by MPs who held concerns for regions in NSW with lower vaccination rates as a result of vaccine hesitancy and a lagging regional vaccine roll-out.
In a joint letter addressed to Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro, a statement warned of dangers for regions that may still have vulnerable members of the community residing in tourism hotspots as the state gathers momentum to reopen.
The formation of the cross-party northern NSW coalition outlining concerns for regions with lagging vaccine rollouts followed Wagga Wagga independent MP Dr Joe McGirr’s condemnation of the idea to permit regional travel in NSW pending high vaccination rates in metropolitan Sydney. Dr McGirr said on Friday:
“I am concerned that while the overall state average will have reached 70 per cent, the vaccination rates in many regional areas will not. This puts these communities at risk.”
“Once people are allowed to travel more widely, particularly from Sydney and other impacted areas, our regional communities are at increased risk ... this virus only travels when people travel and we do not want it travelling to regional areas which have not had the same opportunities to access vaccinations as metropolitan areas.”