NSW has confirmed another 882 local COVID cases and two more virus deaths, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian set the date for children to return to classrooms.
Face-to-face learning will resume in NSW from October 25, in a staggered start with kindergarten and grade one students the first to head back.
The date will automatically be brought forward for any area of NSW where the virus lockdown is lifted earlier. Anyone on school campuses, including teachers and other staff, must have a COVID vaccine by November 8.
“The NSW government has worked hard to have a safe way to get children back at school,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We know what a difficult period of time this is and every day I think about families that are struggling with home learning, working and doing all those things during the lockdown to keep us going.”
HSC exams will be delayed until November 9.
Friday’s update came as cases dipped below the record 1029 reported on Thursday. There were also another 143,000 COVID shots administered across NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm Thursday, taking the state’s first-dose vaccine rate to 62 per cent.
“We will be super-excited once 70 per cent of our population gets their first dose,” Ms Berejiklian.
The two latest fatalities take NSW’s toll from the current outbreak to at least 81.
They were a man in his 60s from Sydney’s Nepean Blue Mountains District who died at Nepean Hospital and a man in his 90s from western Sydney who died at Concord Hospital. Both caught the virus in Sydney hospitals.
NSW authorities say more than 80 per cent of new virus infections are still being reported in the 12 Sydney local government areas of concern. But they have sounded the alarm for Camden and the remaining areas of Penrith that are not already considered a hotspot.
“The health experts are telling us that there are more cases there than they would like to see and unless things improve there, there could be a chance that those areas could be designated local government areas of concern,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We are just asking everybody in [those areas] just to be extra careful, just to continue to do the right thing, make sure you come forward and get vaccinated to ensure that you can continue the way that you are in the foreseeable future.”
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said there were nine new cases in the Indigenous town of Wilcannia on Friday for a total of 40 infections in the Western NSW local health district there were a total of 40 cases. There were another 25 cases in Dubbo, with smaller increases in other regional centres.
“I do want to echo again concerns with sewage surveillance in Tamworth, Merimbula, Picton and Nyngan – a callout to those communities to be vigilant,” he said.
Vaccination rates are also rising steadily in regional areas – up to 60 per cent of the eligible local population with a first dose in Shoalhaven, 60 per cent in Port Macquarie, 57 per cent in Ballina and 60 per cent in Bourke.
“The message is that we need to get vaccinated – a roadmap to freedom is attached to vaccination and I encourage the regions to keep getting vaccinated,” Mr Barilaro said.
NSW has 767 COVID patients in its hospitals. They include 117 in intensive care – 47 of those on ventilation. Of those in ICU, 103 people