News COVID: NSW reopens, major crowds in Victoria, and an international border plan
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COVID: NSW reopens, major crowds in Victoria, and an international border plan

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It’s happening. It’s really happening: After more than 100 days in lockdown, NSW is opening up for people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

But as lockdown ends for those residents, a kind of “lockout” is starting to incentivise people who are yet to get their double dose.

Businesses including cafes, gyms, theatres and hairdressers are flinging open their doors on Monday, with some hosting a special reopening at midnight.

There are feelings of trepidation amid the celebrations, as workers are worried about abuse they could cop from unvaccinated people who are turned away. It doesn’t help that NSW residents may be held up at the door by having to navigate a “clunky” check-in service. 

In other good news out of that state, international travel may be brought forward if a revised quarantine program goes ahead.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia’s international borders could reopen for vaccinated travellers as early as November 1 under a plan for Australians to “take our lives back”.

The federal government is in talks with the NSW government about bringing forward plans to offer vaccinated return travellers the option to quarantine at home instead of paying thousands of dollars to stay in a hotel. Trials for home quarantine are already underway in Queensland, SA and NSW.

“The NSW Premier and I have been discussing how we can accelerate our plan to open international travel when home quarantine is made available,’’ Mr Morrison said in a video on his Facebook page on Sunday.

“I know the NSW government is looking at ways to fast track home quarantine in November and if that happens we will be able to move to facilitate the opening up of the international border into NSW sooner.”

Victoria is also taking steps towards freedom by trialling technology that checks patrons’ vaccination status.

It’s expected the system, being run at 15 regional venues from Monday, will be scaled up so thousands of double-vaccinated Victorians can gather in coming weeks.

The first major event will be a concert at Sydney Myer Music Bowl on October 30, followed by 10,000 people at the Melbourne Cup the following week.

No word yet on who will headline the concert – but rumours are already swirling that the bill could include Kylie Minogue, who announced last week she is returning home from London. 

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, authorities in non-lockdown states are on alert after border breaches over the weekend.

The detected breaches include a passenger who flew into Queensland without a valid border pass. That person has now tested positive for COVID-19.

The infected passenger flew from Sydney to Brisbane on Friday on Virgin Airlines flight 917 and did not have a valid border pass to enter the state.

The person was taken into hotel quarantine and tested before flying back to Sydney on Saturday.

Queensland had another day of zero cases on Sunday – but it’s feared that could change now that it’s been confirmed the illegal traveller was infectious.

In South Australia, meanwhile, a couple from Victorian has been arrested after allegedly sneaking into the state without permits.

The 55-year-old man and 51-year-old woman from the country town of Colignan, near Mildura, were arrested in Moorook South in South Australia’s Riverland region on Sunday.

SA Police will allege they drove into the state, avoiding checkpoints, with neither having approval to enter.

Both have tested negative for COVID-19.

Now here’s a look at all the latest lockdown (and freedom) news across the impacted states.

NSW

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has called for patience and respect as the state emerges from lockdown amid concerns customer-facing staff could be at risk of abuse from unvaccinated people when they are turned away.

His hope is that police will only need to be called as a last resort.

After 106 days, almost 63,000 COVID-19 cases and 431 deaths, stay-at-home orders have lifted across NSW.

Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians will reopen from Monday and people will be allowed to venture more than five kilometres from home.

Ten people will be able to meet indoors and 30 people outdoors.

However, the unvaccinated remain locked down until December.

“It’s been 100 days of blood, sweat and no beers but we’re back in action tomorrow,” Mr Perrottet said on Sunday.

“NSW is leading the country out of this pandemic.”

There are mixed emotions from business owners and workers in retail and hospitality who are nervous the risk of transmission is high, and the risk of abuse from angry patrons even higher.

Mr Perrottet acknowledged problems were inevitable, but urged the state’s residents to show patience, kindness and respect.

“We’re the first state in the country that’s put these plans in place,” he said.

“There will be challenges and difficulties as we go through this … but we certainly don’t want to be having police moving through cafes and restaurants.

“That’s just not the state that I love and know.”

He rejected concerns business owners have been left out on a limb when it comes to dealing with angry people denied service.

Clear guidelines have been issued to them for training staff and posting clear signage, he said.

The United Workers Union, which represents essential frontline and public-facing workers, has expressed concern that staff checking vaccination status will be put in unsafe situations, calling for clear binding rules on bosses to protect staff as well as penalties for non-compliance.

NSW on Saturday reached 90.3 per cent first-dose vaccination coverage for those eligible, while 73.5 per cent of the eligible population is now fully jabbed.

On its final day of lockdown on Sunday, the state reported 477 new local COVID-19 cases and six deaths.

The victims – all men – were not fully vaccinated.

There are 794 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 159 in intensive care units and 76 on ventilators.

Victoria

Under a government trial of COVID-19 vaccine checking systems, Reece Tuohey will be able to double the number of patrons at his Bendigo gym.

It’s not before time, he says.

“For gyms it’s been a rough road, it’s been getting close to two years now,” Mr Tuohey said.

His gym, BodyFit Training, is one of 15 regional venues involved in the trial starting on Monday, in which the business will check patrons’ jab status.

The system will be scaled up within weeks, under plans to open up the economy when the state hits 80 per cent vaccination targets, expected around November 5.

About 10,000 racing fans will be able to attend the Melbourne Cup on November 2, while Oaks Day and Stakes Day will be allowed similar-sized crowds if the state reaches its 80 per cent double-jab threshold.

A live music event will also be held at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl on October 30 with thousands attending.

On Sunday, Victoria added 1890 infections to its caseload and an additional five deaths over the past 24 hours.

Another 609 people are in hospital, with 126 in intensive care and 88 on ventilators.

Less than 7 per cent of those in hospital have been fully vaccinated.

Almost 40,000 vaccines were administered across the state on Saturday, while 74,105 tests were conducted.

ACT

The ACT has to wait a few more days before it can join the surrounding state of NSW and start easing COVID-19 restrictions.

The territory, which will start lifting its stay-at-home orders on Friday, had 30 new cases on Sunday.

Of these, only seven were in quarantine for their entire period of infection.

The ACT has 15 patients in hospital, including six in intensive care, with five of those requiring ventilation.

-with AAP