New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s current Covid-19 epicentre, has unveiled a “roadmap to freedom” out of the prolonged lockdown imposed on much of the state as it continues to battle a raging outbreak of the virus.
Addressing reporters in state capital Sydney, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the newfound freedoms would be contingent on 70 per cent of people aged 16 and older receiving their two doses of vaccine, reports Xinhua news agency.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to get vaccinated, if you have not had both doses of the vaccine by the time we hit the 70 per cent milestone, you will not be able to take advantage of these freedoms,” Berejiklian said.
No date has been given for the roadmap introduction, however, the state’s present uptake of jabs means its vaccine rollout target should be reached by mid-October.
The freedoms would begin the Monday following that milestone.
It will mean stay-at-home orders for fully vaccinated adults will be lifted and up to five visitors will be allowed in a home where all adults are vaccinated (not including children aged 12 and under).
There will also be an easing of restrictions at a wide range of venues including shops, hairdressers, restaurants, pubs, stadiums, gyms, theatres and public swimming pools.
People who have been locked in their homes for months on end will finally be able to travel throughout NSW and camping grounds will reopen.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro also announced that parts of regional NSW, which have had no new Covid-19 cases for at least 14 days, will emerge from lockdown this Saturday.
“For the areas coming out of lockdown, you are not coming back to a pre-lockdown environment,” Barilaro said.
“There will be capacity limits for our hotels, cafes and restaurants, including the four-square meter rule, mask-wearing, social distancing.”
The announcements come at a time as the outbreak continues in Sydney and other regions.
The state reported 1,405 new locally acquired cases in the last 24 hours.
Since the first case of the Delta variant was discovered on June 16, there have been 32,296 cases in NSW.
Fatality figures have also steadily climbed, with a further five deaths reported on Thursday, bringing the overall number to 153.
Such alarming statistics means that neighbouring states will probably not be enthusiastic about the prospect of people in NSW being on the move.
The state of Queensland to the north of NSW, for instance, has so far avoided the crisis that has occurred just beyond its southern border. On Thursday, Queensland recorded only one new case during the previous 24 hours.
Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk has frequently been at loggerheads with her NSW counterparts about how to reopen their shared border.
Palaszczuk said on Thursday that Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles was talking to Barilaro about the easing of restrictions in regional NSW and she said it was too soon to say whether her state would relax its hard border.
Meanwhile, the state of Victoria as another neighbour of NSW also has its reasons not to roll out the welcome mat to NSW any time soon.
In recent days, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has said it had been “totally unfair” how NSW had received hundreds of thousands of vaccines from the national stockpile, seemingly at the expense of other states eager to raise their own rollout numbers.
Victoria has imposed many lockdowns on its residents, particularly those in the state capital city of Melbourne, throughout the past 18 months.
Despite all its strenuous efforts, the state is currently confronting its own battle against the virus.
Victoria recorded 324 new cases, concentrated around Melbourne, bringing its overall total to 2,166 active cases.
Despite the mounting Covid-19 figures, Victoria will lift the lockdown on much of its regional districts from Friday.
Since the onset of the pandemic early last year, Australia has registered a total of 69,923 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 1,076 deaths.