NSW is poised to relax some of its toughest virus restrictions, despite another day of more than 1200 new COVID cases and seven deaths.
The state has also administered its seven-millionth vaccine with another milestone expected on Thursday.
“Today, NSW looks like we’ll be the first state or territory to hit 70 per cent first-dose vaccination across our population,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
With that crucial mark in sight, millions of Sydneysiders in the 12 local government hotspot areas will be able to enjoy unlimited exercise outside their homes from 5am Friday. For weeks, they have been limited to just an hour a day.
“The public health experts have given us the green light to allow everybody who lives in a local government area of concern to have unlimited exercise from 5am to 9pm,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“The curfew will still be in place. The exercise rule is now the same for every person across NSW in terms of that ability.”
The slight easing of COVID measures came as NSW posted a near-record 1288 new local cases on Thursday. It is the highest daily total since 1290 infections on Monday.
The state’s death toll from the current outbreak has also risen to 107, with more fatalities confirmed. They were: one man in his 50s, one in his 70s and three in their 80s, and a woman in her 70s and one in her 80s.
Ms Berejiklian said even more freedoms would come when NSW reached 70 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated – expected in mid-October.
“It will allow us to interact with one another safely. But again I want to stress this: The privileges that will extend at 70 per cent double-dose are only for those who are double vaccinated. So get vaccinated now,” she said.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant reinforced the Premier’s message.
“Whilst I’m very pleased we are at 70 per cent first dose, as you know, I’ve previously said I want to see the sky as the limit,” she said.
“I think Australia can be the most vaccinated country in the world, because we believe in science and we believe in vaccines. But what I also need to do is get that second dose into people, because two doses protects.”
She said NSW Health data showed there were still people aged 50 and over, and some older than 70, who were yet to have even a single shot.
“That’s what concerns me because deaths are more likely in those groups,” she said.
NSW has 957 COVID patients in its hospitals, including 160 in intensive care.
Victoria’s cases spike as COVID zero ditched
Victoria confirmed 176 more coronavirus cases on Thursday, a jump of more than 50 from Wednesday, as authorities shift focus from chasing zero cases to suppressing the outbreak.
It’s the state’s second consecutive day of more than 100 local cases, after 120 on Wednesday.
It brings total active cases in Victoria to 1029.
Up to 93 of the latest have not been linked to known outbreaks.
Health Minister Martin Foley said more than five million vaccines had been administered across Victoria, with another 33,720 in state clinics on Wednesday.
“Which also brings us to more than halfway to our recent one million vaccines in five weeks target that we launched a few weeks ago,” he said.
“We know that vaccines continue to be the way out of this pandemic, and the way to gradual easing of the restrictions.”
Victoria is expected to reach 70 per cent of its eligible population with a single vaccine dose by mid-September. Until then, Melbourne will remain under tight restrictions aimed at keeping case numbers as low as possible.
“We have a rising case number, and we all need to be increasingly on high alert to the risks that go with increasing transmission of COVID 19 in our community,” Mr Foley said.
“We know case cases have emerged recently in the northern and western suburbs … We are also now starting to see more cases of spring up into the eastern and southern suburbs of Melbourne.”
In recent days, there have been wastewater detections of the virus in Melbourne’s southern suburbs, including Armadale, Prahran, South Yarra, Toorak, Windsor, Aspendale, Aspendale Gardens, Bonbeach, Chelsea and Chelsea Heights.
In Melbourne’s south-east, there have been similar results for Burwood East, Forest Hill, Glen Waverley, Scoresby, Vermont South and Wheelers Hill.