News Coronavirus NSW gains more ground against COVID: 319 cases and two deaths
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NSW gains more ground against COVID: 319 cases and two deaths

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Sydney is almost back to business as usual, thanks to mass jabs that have seen daily numbers continue to shrink. Photo: Getty
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NSW has recorded two deaths from COVID-19 and 319 new locally-acquired cases.

It’s the state’s lowest daily number of cases in more than two months.

The number of people hospitalised with the virus also continues to fall, now at 652 and 25 fewer than reported on Friday.

Some 138 of those people are in intensive care, seven fewer than the previous day.

The two deaths take the toll of the current outbreak to 460.

The falling numbers come five days after the state eased restrictions for the fully vaccinated.

NSW is rapidly approaching the next stage of reopening as it looks set to hit 80 per cent vaccination coverage as early as Saturday.

According to the latest figures, 78.8 per cent of NSW residents over 16 are fully vaccinated. Some 91.7 per cent have had at least one dose.

Approaching 80 per cent

If the 80 per cent mark is reached on Saturday or Sunday, NSW will progress to the next phase of its reopening roadmap on Monday.

That will mean the return of community sport, the removal of caps on weddings and funerals, and the return of dancing to hospitality venues.

But Sydneysiders wishing to travel to the regions will have to wait a little longer, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced on Friday.

That freedom has been delayed to November 1, to give those in the regions time to get their second dose.

That date will also see the state walk away from hotel quarantine and isolation requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals.

The move was heralded as a “massive step towards life as we knew it” by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on Friday.

In response, the airline has brought forward the restart of its international flights by two weeks.

Tickets from London and Los Angeles to Sydney are now on sale.

Flights from other destinations, like Singapore, Fiji and Vancouver, may also become available earlier than expected, the airline said on Friday.

“We have thousands of our pilots and cabin crew wanting to get back to work and they will be thrilled at today’s announcement,” Mr Joyce said.

“It will still be a long time before international travel returns to normal but this is a fantastic start.”

Flight bookings open up

Singapore Airlines will open bookings for 17 weekly flights between Singapore and Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

The carrier has been operating just one flight a day on the route due to quarantine caps.

Singapore Airlines Regional Vice President South West Pacific, Louis Arul, welcomed the news but said the company wants clarity on how they can facilitate unvaccinated passengers.

Some 210 hotel quarantine spots each week will be reserved for returning Australians who don’t meet the vaccination requirement.

The move has made NSW the first Australian jurisdiction to partially abandon the quarantine requirement.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarified the federal government won’t issue visas to facilitate quarantine-free entry for skilled workers, international students or tourists just yet.

-AAP