Premier Dominic Perrottet is warning that COVID-19 cases in NSW will increase as the state opens up, with extensive new freedoms to kick in next week.
“The reality is case numbers will increase, hospitalisations will increase — we need to learn to live alongside this pandemic,” Mr Perrottet said on Wednesday.
The warning came as WA flagged a crack in its hard border with NSW.
WA Premier Mark McGowan announced NSW will be downgraded from an “extreme risk” zone to a “high risk” zone because it has managed to keep a lid on COVID cases.
It means some exemptions will be granted for fully vaccinated people to travel to WA as long as they test negative and quarantine for 14 days at a self-nominated location.
NSW has so far defied predictions that COVID cases and hospitalisations would soar as restrictions ease but Mr Perrottet declined to reveal what the latest modelling says.
He maintained the state’s post-lockdown opening up would go ahead, on the back of “world-leading” vaccination rates.
He was speaking as the state recorded 190 new local cases of COVID-19 — up 17 on the previous day — and four deaths.
On Tuesday the premier announced most restrictions that were due to ease in December would lift on Monday — while unvaccinated people will have to wait until December 15 — or until the state achieves its 95 per cent double-dose vaccination target.
Meanwhile, he says he will push for Australia’s borders to open wider as the state grapples with skilled labour shortages.
He wants foreign workers back in the country as the nation begins to open up.
This week Australians who had been stranded overseas began returning to NSW after the state dropped the requirement for them to quarantine, but the premier is keen to welcome others as well.
“In relation to immigration, I’m sure there will be discussions over time in relation to what that immigration rate should be,” he said.
“What you want to do is target those areas which will make a difference,” he said.
Initially, he wants to address short term labour shortages threatening the recovery of the hospitality sector and the agriculture industry, which after years of hardship has a once-in-a-lifetime bumper crop but a critical shortage of workers to harvest it.
“That will be the focus for me as I’m sure it will be for other premiers around the country.
“I would expect that through the national cabinet process we would be able to put forward where we identify those skilled labour shortages,” he said.
Meanwhile, southwest Sydney recorded the most COVID cases (36) in the 24 hours to 8 pm on Tuesday, while the Hunter New England district recorded 35, 18 were from western Sydney and 15 from the Murrumbidgee areas which border Victoria.
There are 309 patients in NSW hospitals with 68 in ICU and 32 who require ventilation.
Some 93.6 per cent of people aged 16 and older have had one vaccine dose and 88.3 per cent are fully jabbed.
In the 12-15-year-old age group, 79.5 per cent have had their first dose, and 63.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.