Well guys, we’ve finally made it. After 108 days, Greater Sydney will finally be getting out of lockdown on Monday, October 11 as the state hit its 70% double dose vaccination target last night.
It’s a blinding achievement from a region with just over 5% of the population vaccinated at the end of June when the Delta outbreak began.
With the election of the new Premier, Dominic Perrottet, the state is pushing for an even more rapid reopening as updated changes to the lockdown timetable were announced on Thursday.
Perrottet, who was staunchly opposed to the lockdown in June, has said that he will broadly hold to the lockdown exit strategy laid down by his predecessors, but that he is “very much focused on stimulating the NSW economy”.
The lockdown exit plan was largely created by John Barilaro and Gladys Berejiklian, both of whom have now resigned. If his new, fast-tracked timetable works, it could see the state rejuvenated far earlier than previously expected. If it doesn’t, we could see hospitals overwhelmed and the threat of lockdowns returning as COVID spirals out of control.
Last week, former-Premier Berejiklian warned that “This is something that no state in Australia has done, and we can’t stuff it up.”
Here’s what the updated lockdown strategy looks like.
NSW Lockdown Roadmap
From Monday 11 October, the stay-at-home orders that have been in place since July will be lifted. That means no more 5km bubble, no more travel restrictions. Well, within reason.
Travel will be allowed within Greater Sydney, meaning those in the city can travel as far as The Blue Mountains, Wollongong, Shellharbour, and the Central Coast and visa versa.
The list of Local Government Areas of concern will also be scrapped and the rules will now be replaced with the NSW lockdown roadmap. This is the strategy that was put in place by Berejiklian and has been adapted slightly by Perrottet.
The changes already in place for Monday include the re-opening of hospitality venues, hairdressers, retail, gyms and sports facilities, as well as campgrounds. Massage parlours, nail salons, art galleries, museums, libraries, and tattoo parlours will also be opening.
All of the above will have to adhere to the one person per four square metre rule.
In hospitality venues, bookings will be essential and patrons will need to remain seated while drinking unless they are outdoors.
Outdoor ticketed events like stadiums, theme parks, and racecourses can have 5000 people while ticketed and seated outdoor events will be allowed for 500 people.
The major change made by Perrottet is the increase in numbers for home visits, outdoor gatherings, and weddings and funerals.
- You can have 10 visitors to your home.
- 30 people will be allowed to gather outdoors.
- 100 people will be allowed at weddings and funerals.
Indoor swimming pools, which were scheduled to stay closed until 1 December, will now open on Monday to vaccinated people. Bookings will be essential.
Schools, which have a three-tiered returning structure, will be returning in full by 25 October, a date that has been brought forward from November.
Deputy Premier Paul Toole, the recently elected leader of the National Party, said that workers in regional areas who have received one vaccination dose will be permitted to return to their workplace from 11 October but will have to get their second shot by 1 November.
‘Regional areas’ means anywhere outside of Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Central Coast.
Singing at religious services, which was set to still be banned, will now be allowed from Monday, for performers. This includes choirs of up to 10 people.
Masks will no longer be required to be worn outdoors but will remain mandatory indoors and on public transport.
Visitors will now be allowed in aged care and disability residencies, in line with the policies of those facilities.
Employees can return to work but will be required to wear a mask and employers must continue to allow staff to work from home if practical.
Further down the line, at the 80% double vaccination mark, more changes have been made to the lockdown strategy.
NSW is expected to hit 80% around 20 October, meaning that from the following Monday, 25 October:
- Masks will no longer be required to be worn in the office.
- You will be able to have 20 visitors to your home.
- 50 people will be allowed to gather outdoors.
- 3,000 people will be allowed to attend outdoor events.
- Nightclubs will re-open, but dancing will not be permitted.
- 3,000 people will be able to attend ticketed outdoors events.
All of the above applies of course to fully vaccinated people only. Those who are unvaccinated will have to wait until 1 December to enjoy these new freedoms.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the common-sense changes would help life return to normal as soon as possible.
“Vaccinations are the key to life returning to normal and the changes today will help family and friends reconnect, get kids back to school and get businesses back up and running sooner,” he said.
“NSW is putting in the hard yards and it’s important people continue to turn out in droves to be vaccinated.”
However, the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has issued a strong warning to the Premier, saying his decisions may endanger people’s lives.
AMA NSW President, Dr Danielle McMullen, said that having a new Premier isn’t a good enough reason to deviate from the roadmap, accusing Perrottet of choosing the “popular” option over the safe one.
“Keeping people safe must be the Premier’s top priority. We know the virus is still circulating in the community. Relaxing restrictions too soon will not be a ‘popular’ decision if it means the number of people contracting the virus and ending up in hospital skyrockets,” McMullen said.
“We all want to get to ‘COVID-normal’ but going too fast too soon undoes the work and sacrifices NSW residents have made to get to this point.”
NSW recorded 587 new locally acquired cases on Thursday and eight deaths.