The NSW premier has denied going against health advice by unveiling plans to reopen for the fully vaccinated at 70% double-dose coverage, but acknowledged her need to “weigh up health advice with public policy”.
The unvaccinated in NSW have a little over a month to get double-jabbed if they want to visit friends, dine out, travel to the regions or go to the barber or gym.
Under a roadmap out of Covid-19 lockdown announced by Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday, a suite of restrictions will be eased when 70% of the state’s eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
These freedoms will only be restored for the fully vaccinated.
Berejiklian denied reports that chief health officer Kerry Chant wanted to wait until NSW reached 85% coverage before reopening.
The premier insisted Dr Chant signed off on the plan.
But she also admitted the government’s job was to consider a number of factors including mental health, freedom of movement and relationships.
“What we need to do is always weigh up that health advice with public policy and I would never do anything where the health experts completely objected to anything or did not think it was safe,” the NSW premier said.
“It is going to be challenging, but it’s a road all states will have to take.”
Berejiklian reiterated, however, that current lockdown settings would remain in place until the 70% milestone is reached, likely in mid-October.
NSW residents would have to refrain from “letting loose” before then, she said.
As a sole exception, up to five fully vaccinated NSW residents outside the 12 western Sydney council areas of concern can from Monday convene for picnics.
The freedoms to be restored in mid-October will be policed via a vaccination status feature added to the Service NSW app’s QR code check-in tool.
But the government has emphasised some restrictions on movement may still be required in areas where case numbers are too high.
While the plan was enthusiastically welcomed by business and tourism industry bodies, the Australian Medical Association criticised it as lacking sufficient detail.
While NSW recorded 1405 new local cases and another five deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, some virus-free regional areas – including the north coast, Riverina and Murrumbidgee – will be released from lockdown.
The toll for the current NSW outbreak is 153.
The government on Friday is also set to unveil the HSC timetable for 2021, which was pushed back due to the outbreak and a return in Sydney to remote learning.