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Sydneysiders revel in ‘freedom day’ – and open borders are next

Freedom Day
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is keen to further reopen the state after Freedom Day. Photo: AAP
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Sydneysiders braved the rain on Monday morning to queue outside shops, clubs and even hairdressers after NSW opened at midnight.

In what the state government called “freedom day”, fully vaccinated adults across New South Wales can now return to non-essential shops, restaurants, pubs, hairdressers and gyms.

For millions of people in greater Sydney, it’s the first time they’ve been able to get out and about in 106 days.

“I say to everyone today, NSW: You have earned it,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Monday morning

“Enjoy it, it’s a great day, it’s a day we should all be pleased at arriving at.”

The state’s vaccine passport system, VaxPass, is not yet up and running. However, people can show proof of vaccination thought the Express Plus Medicare app, or with a hard copy.

Restrictions will ease even further when NSW hits 80 per cent vaccination coverage in late October.

Beyond that, the state government is also keen to reopen the border with Victoria.

Mr Perrottet repeated his line that the pandemic is “not just a health crisis” but also an economic crisis, saying that was why he brought forward some aspects of the roadmap outlined by former premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Shoppers flocked to Pitt St Mall on Freedom Day.
Shoppers flocked to Pitt Street Mall on Monday. Photo: AAP

Lines outside Kmart

During lockdown, non-essential retail was limited to click-and-collect, with many retailers deciding to close altogether.

With the clock about to tick over to freedom day, eager customers lined up outside shops across Sydney late on Sunday.

Some Kmarts in Penrith and Mount Druitt even had queues forming before their doors opened at midnight.

“We are lucky to operate large-format stores like supermarkets that can have a number of people safely shopping and I can confirm that none of our stores have gone over these capacities this morning,” a Kmart spokesperson told The New Daily.

‘Freedom frothies’ abound

Other people in NSW were keen to get on the beers, with some venues opening at midnight to celebrate.

Sydney’s City Tattersalls Club celebrated by popping Champagne as the clock struck 12, while other venues chose to reopen their doors at their usual hours.

“I’m going to call the beer today the ‘freedom frothy’,” Deputy Premier Paul Toole said on Monday.

Some venues even opened their pokies rooms at midnight.

Long-overdue haircuts

For Sydneysiders, Monday also marked the first chance to legally get a haircut in months.

Some salons are reportedly booked out “from now to forever” while many barbershops had long queues first thing in the morning.

Hairdressers – along with nail salons, tattoo studios and similar venues – can have one person per four square metres, with a cap of five customers at any one time.

Next stop: Victoria

Mr Perrottet said he was keen to reopen the border with Victoria.

However, daily case numbers there have yet to drop or even plateau, with another 1612 reported on Monday.

“I spoke to Daniel Andrews on the weekend about that issue,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We want to work very closely together on it. They’re a few weeks behind us. Their case numbers are still higher.

“Our road maps are similar, whilst theirs is slightly more conservative than ours. I don’t think they’ll be too far behind.”

However, travel between greater Sydney and regional NSW remains off limits. It has been pushed back to the 80 per cent milestone, after it was initially earmarked to coincide with “freedom day”.

It came after Mr Perrottet on Sunday hinted that international travel could restart sooner than anticipated – perhaps by the end of the month.

“If we can get returning Australians home, we can do this in a way that keeps people safe, the next step after returning Australians is bringing in labour,” he said on Monday.

“In addition to that, we want to bring tourists back. We’re in best city in the best state in the best country in the world and we rely on tourism. We need tourism back.”