The New South Wales government has brought forward a raft of freedoms for fully vaccinated residents, while delaying when unvaccinated people can exit stay-at-home orders.
From Monday 8 November, fully vaccinated people will be able to have unlimited visitors to their home, density limits on venues will ease and dancing will be allowed at nightclubs.
Under the original roadmap, restrictions were supposed to ease from 1 December. The NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, said the changes were due to the state’s high vaccination rate, with authorities pushing NSW to hit 95% double dose coverage.
“We said from the outset that this was the key for our state to be able to open up safely,” Perrottet said. “Everybody has done an incredible job to ensure NSW can ease restrictions in a safe and considered way earlier than we planned. [This] is one last push and I believe that we can get to that 95% mark.”
The changes also delay when restrictions ease for unvaccinated people – either when the state hits that 95% fully vaccinated rate or by 15 December, whichever occurs first.
This means unvaccinated residents will continue to be barred from businesses, gyms and venues for at least two weeks more than expected.
Perrottet said the delay was to ensure the state could continue reopening “safely” and hoped it would incentivise people to get the jab.
“Ultimately we want a united society and we believe by moving that date back to December 15 will incentivise” he said.
Caps on gym and dance classes remain, but entertainment venues with fixed seating will open to 100% capacity. Indoor swimming pools will also be able to reopen.
The mask mandate will also remain until the state hits 95% fully vaccinated, or 15 December.
The health minister, Brad Hazzard, welcomed rising vaccination rates and the changes, calling them a “giant step” for the state.
“A year and a half ago we all wondered whether we would get vaccinated or whether we would ever get our freedoms back,” he said. “A little as three or four months ago, when things were looking dark, we were all wondering if we’ll be able to get through the next few months.
“This really is a giant step for all of us, and how good is it that we have actually faced down this enemy of this hidden virus and managed to get our freedoms back.”
Hazzard said while vaccination rates in western Sydney were “absolutely amazing”, there were still some concerns for the Hunter region.
“The message is: the virus is still out there,” he said.
In NSW 93.6% of people eligible have now had at least one dose of the vaccine, while 87.8% are fully vaccinated.
The state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, urged young people to take up the vaccine or to book their second dose.
“I know you haven’t had access to the vaccines for as long … but just to reiterate, there is plenty of vaccine and plenty of access points for you,” she said. “We know those age groups actually drive transmission.
“They are the connectors in our society, they connect with younger people and they also connect with older people. They also have more social contacts. So it is critical we achieve high rates of coverage in those groups.”
The changes were announced as the state recorded 173 new locally acquired cases, and four deaths: two men in their 50s, one man in his 60s and one man in his 70s.
Victoria recorded 989 new locally acquired cases and nine deaths on Tuesday, dropping below 1,000 daily cases for the first time since September.
The Australian Capital Territory recorded eight new locally acquired cases, with seven Covid patients in hospital. Of those, four are in intensive care.