Life will return to almost completely normal in New South Wales for the COVID-19 vaccinated and unvaccinated in December as part of the government’s roadmap to ending restrictions.
However, the unvaccinated will be shut out until then – while the fully jabbed will be busy living near-normal lives.
NSW reported 787 more local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday as the state government revealed its plan for 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage and beyond.
The three-stage plan builds on the freedoms to be restored for fully vaccinated residents at 70 per cent coverage, including small indoor gatherings and access to hospitality venues and hairdressers.
That stage is expected to be triggered on October 11.
But, because the plan applies statewide, unvaccinated NSW residents in regional areas which are not in lockdown now might find life becomes more restricted after that pivotal date.
“There will be individuals in regional and rural NSW who choose not to be vaccinated who will lose their freedoms on October 11,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said on Monday.
“My message to everybody in regional and rural NSW is to continue to get vaccinated. We are seeing vaccination rates climb might across the state, including in the regions.”
At 80 per cent coverage across the state, which is expected about October 25, travel will again be permitted between greater Sydney and regional NSW.
Gathering caps will increase to 10 fully vaccinated visitors in homes, 20 people outdoors, a maximum of 200 people for COVID-safe events and up to 500 people at ticketed and seated events.
Entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres will be able to operate at 75 per cent capacity, libraries and museums can reopen and community sport will resume. Nightclubs will remain closed.
Caps will lift for shops, personal services such as hairdressers and hospitality venues, but group bookings will be limited to 20 people.
Gathering limits will also lift for weddings, funerals and religious services – the latter of which will also open to the unvaccinated.
But the unvaccinated will miss out again.
“Today is a very disappointing day for those who aren’t vaccinated. I think they assumed once we hit 80 per cent double dose they would have certain freedoms,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“It is not too late. You have the option, go today, make your booking and get vaccinated not only to protect yourself and your loved ones but also the community.”
Even at that rate, NSW employers will continue to be told to permit fully vaccinated employees to work from home if practicable. Unvaccinated employees will be obliged to work from home.
Masks will remain mandatory indoors and the easing of all restrictions is predicated on the “four square metre” rule indoors.
A plan for aged-care settings is yet to be completed.
Unvaccinated people will be able to reintegrate with society from December 1, when the “four square metre” social distancing rule reverts to two square metres.
At this point, almost all remaining restrictions ease, including on all gatherings, all business, office, hospitality and entertainment settings and all weddings, funerals and religious services.
All face-to-face schooling will return in NSW, caps on vaccinated international arrivals to Sydney Airport will likely be removed and masks will only be mandatory on public transport or airplanes.
QR code check-ins may also be ditched but this is not yet confirmed.
This date will thus usher in the beginning of the “COVID-normal” era and the near-certain end of statewide or region-wide lockdowns.
But Ms Berejiklian begged residents to stay disciplined until October 11 to keep virus transmission and hospitalisations low.
“I don’t want to be the party pooper but let’s not think about this as a freedom day, let’s think about this as a staged reopening to getting back to normal,” she said on Monday.
“But there is no doubt that for those of us who are fully vaccinated, 70 per cent double-dose life will feel so much better.
“Fingers crossed, by the time of that third stage of reopening on December 1, we anticipate we will have 92 per cent or 93 per cent of our adult population completely vaccinated.”
Having dangled the possibility of international travel on Sunday, Ms Berejiklian on Monday said she hoped NSW and Victoria could present a “unity ticket” on reopening borders soon.
However, she admitted this would be dependant on airlines resuming flights to Sydney Airport post-restrictions.
Meanwhile, outdoor pools were permitted to reopen everywhere in NSW from Monday and construction sites can return to full capacity.
There are 1155 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 214 in intensive care units and 115 on ventilators.