The premiers of New South Wales and Victoria have told their citizens to ‘prepare for the worst’ with the Covid-ravaged states set to emerge from lockdown next month.
Although cases have stabilised in Victoria and fallen in NSW to levels not seen since August, the upcoming easing of restrictions is likely to see infection rates skyrocket once again with hospitalisations inevitable set to follow.
But Gladys Berejiklian and now Daniel Andrews are determined to achieve a new Covid-normal and are both marching forward with their ‘gradual’ reopening plans as vaccination rates hurtle towards the 70 per cent target set out by national cabinet.
The Victorian leader finally revealed his October roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday, giving much-needed hope to struggling Melburnians now in their sixth shutdown of the pandemic.
While Sydney’s 12 LGAs of concern, subject to ultra-harsh stay-at-home measures for months, will see a range of restrictions eased from Monday, bringing the western suburbs back in line with the rest of the Harbour City.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) felt more comfortable removing the east-west divide with a dramatic fall in new cases to just 1,083 – the lowest infection tally in over three weeks – with cases creeping up in the inner-city and east
Sydney’s 12 LGAs of concern will see a range of restrictions eased from Monday, bringing the western suburbs back in line with the rest of the Harbour City (pictured, Sydneysiders in Centennial Park on Sunday)
Eased restrictions in hotspot LGAs
From 12.01am Monday (September 20), the following restrictions will ease for those who live in the listed LGAs of concern: Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith.
· No limit on the duration of outdoor exercise and recreation (previously a two-hour limit);
· Outdoor gatherings of up to five fully vaccinated people (not including children aged 12 and under) will be allowed in a person’s LGA or within 5km of home (previously only fully vaccinated household members could gather outdoors, or up to two fully vaccinated people from different households);
· Shopping, exercise and outdoor recreation can be done 5km from home or within your LGA (previously only 5km from home);
· Attend a small wedding (maximum 11 people) in Greater Sydney as a guest (previously only allowed in their LGA); and
· A person’s single’s bubble buddy can live in Greater Sydney (previously must have resided within 5km of a person’s home). A person from a LGA of concern can also now be a buddy for someone in Greater Sydney.
Authorised worker conditions and travel permit requirements remain in place in the LGAs of concern.
Ms Berejiklian felt more comfortable removing the east-west divide with a dramatic fall in new cases to just 1,083 – the lowest infection tally in over three weeks.
Despite the positive signs the state also recorded 13 deaths, marking its deadliest day of the pandemic.
The premier welcomed the signs the curve could be flattening but warned now wasn’t the time to be complacent.
‘I say to all my colleagues that even when you get 80 per cent double dose and start opening up, you will get Covid-19 in your community. So please accept that and get ready for that,’ she said.
‘I don’t want anyone to let their guard down, this is not the time to kick back and it’s over.
‘Some areas are showing decline, but other areas are still growing, and it’s really important for us not to get complacent.
Melburnians and Sydneysiders alike have been told to brace for a surge in hospitalisations and deaths (pictured, a Melbourne roadblock on Saturday)
‘If we stay the course, if we stick to the rules, we will be able to really start opening up at 70 per cent in a safe way and ensure that all of us in NSW move forward together.’
The premier said the situation remains ‘precarious’ with case numbers expected to intensify amid the reopening.
‘We are anticipating our worst weeks in ICU and hospitals to be in October… we are bracing for that and know that our health system is bracing for that and staff are ready for that.’
NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty reiterated her warnings saying he didn’t want to ‘jump the gun’ by proclaiming the state had passed its infection peak.
‘Cases overall have been going up, they have stabilised and appear to be dropping in some areas where we have had rapidly increasing vaccination uptake as well as good compliance,’ he said.
An impressive 81.9 per cent of the state’s over-16 population have now received their first vaccine dose, while 51.9 per cent are fully-vaccinated.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) announced his roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday
Victorians are seen exercising along the Tan walking track in Melbourne on Sunday (pictured) as the city’s long-suffering residents were finally given a roadmap out of lockdown
It was a similar message from her counterpart on the other side of the Murray River, who set out Victoria’s long-awaited roadmap out of lockdown.
‘If we open steadily, gradually, but open, as we get to 70 and 80 per cent double dose, then our nurses, doctors, our ambos, they’ll come under intense pressure,’ Mr Andrews conceeded.
‘It will be incredibly difficult in our health system, but we will be able to pass through a gateway, an important gateway. We will be able to normalise this.
‘At that point we have got to open the place up, because remaining closed forever has its own cost in every sense of that word.’
Mr Andrews admitted easing the stay at home measures would likely result in a massive spike in hospitalisations and deaths with the Burnet Institute’s Covid modelling predicting a December peak of 4,543 daily cases.
‘Even if you were lower than Burnet’s, even their median, let alone their worst forecast, that won’t be an easy day on any ward in any hospital. That’ll be really, really tough,’ Mr Andrews said.
NSW recorded 1083 cases and 13 deaths on Sunday as more eased restrictions were announced
Meanwhile, the 12 local councils in Sydney with the vast majority of NSW’s Covid cases will see a range of new freedoms from Monday.
Locals have been locked inside their council area for the past two months unless they were an authorised worker with a permit, subject to a 9pm to 5am curfew, and were only allowed out for one hour a day for exercise.
But these restrictions will now disappear and they will be under the same lockdown conditions as the rest of Sydney.
That means unlimited outdoor exercise and recreation, picnics outside for five vaccinated friends, and being able to go to weddings anywhere in Sydney.
Only the permit system for authorised workers will continue.
Sydney locals take advantage of the new five-person picnic rule for fully vaccinated residents (pictured at Observatory Hill on Sunday)
Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown
When the state hits 70 per cent double vaccination on October 26:
*No restrictions on leaving home and 9pm-5am curfew scrapped with the travel limit increased to 25km
*Masks will remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors
*Year 12 students will return to the classroom from the first week of October
*Kindergarten to Year 2 will then return to school followed by all remaining years which are due to be back by the end of the month
*Early childcare to reopen for children of fully vaccinated parents
*General retail will reopen for outdoor service only with click and collect services to remain available
*Hair salons will reopen for the fully-vaccinated with a limit on five patrons
*Hospitality will reopen for seated and outdoor service only for fully-vaccinated patrons and a capacity limit of 50
*Fully-vaccinated groups can gather outdoors in groups of ten while unvaccinated groups will be capped at five
*Entertainment venues will be reopened for 50 fully vaccinated people for outdoor services only
*Groups of 50 fully vaccinated or 10 unvaccinated people will be able to attend outdoor weddings
Groups of 50 fully vaccinated or 20 unvaccinated people will be able to attend outdoor funerals
When the state hits 80 per cent double vaccination on November 5:
*Ten people including dependents will be allowed inside homes with masks only to be required while indoors
*Pubs, restaurants and cafes can open for seated service only, with a cap of 150 fully vaccinated people inside and 500 outdoors
*Indoor dining will also be capped at 150 people while 30 people will be permitted to gather outside
*Gyms will reopen to the fully vaccinated with indoor community sport to be permitted for the minimum number required
*Victorians will still be asked to work from home if possible but will be allowed to travel to work if they are fully-vaccinated
*Hair salons, beauty and personal care services will be available to the double-jabbed and all retail stores can reopen
*Early childcare education will reopen with all students to return to school with additional safety measures in place
*Weddings, funerals and religious services will return for 150 double-dosed guests indoors and 500 outdoors
Outdoor pools across NSW will also reopen from September 27, in time for the second week of the school holidays, provided councils have a stringent Covid safety plan approved by NSW Health. Natural pools are already permitted to be open.
Ms Berejiklian paid tribute to the hotspot communities in Sydney’s west and south-west who have endured the harshest restrictions in recent months, including a night curfew which was scrapped last week.
‘They have led the way in our vaccination rates, they have shown us the way, and what it means to be resilient and strong,’ she said.
‘I can only imagine what it meant for families, and what it has meant for households to have to endure those restrictions for such a long period of time.
A small group of double-dosed Sydneysiders pose for the camera on their ‘vax picnic’ (pictured in Sydney on Sunday)
‘But I hope that today’s announcement demonstrates our absolute willingness to provide ease, support, and optimism when we can.’
Ms Berejiklian has also begun the conversation with other state and territory leaders about reopening its borders to NSW and hopes Mr Andrews will be the first once Victoria reaches the 70 per cent double dose mark.
‘I ask all leaders to watch what is happening in NSW, watch what is happening in Victoria,’ she said.
‘There was a lot of debate about NSW not having done the right thing or Victoria not having done the right thing.
‘But at the end of the day, Delta cuts through anything. It doesn’t understand borders, it doesn’t understand restrictions. Delta is a formidable, contagious, deadly disease, and we need to learn to live with it.’
Victorians will finally be released from the current strict restrictions on October 26 to coincide with when the state hits 70 per cent double-dose vaccination (pictured, St Kilda on Sunday)
Victorians can enjoy outdoor recreation like tennis and basketball from as early as next week with the government to ease restrictions on outdoor activities (pictured, The Tan walking track in Melbourne)
Victorians will finally be released from the current strict restrictions on October 26 to coincide with when the state is set to hit 70 per cent double-dose vaccination.
There will no longer be any restrictions on leaving home, the 9pm-5am curfew will be scrapped and the travel distance extended to 25km.
Students in Year 12 will return to on-site learning as early as the first week of October with all students to return to classrooms at least part time.
Mr Andrews promised Christmas Day would be as normal as possible with 30 visitors to be allowed inside homes once 80 per cent of the population is fully-vaccinated.
Victorians can enjoy outdoor recreation like tennis and basketball from as early as next week with the government to ease restrictions on outdoor activities.
Some changes will take affect when 80 per cent of the population has had a single dose of a Covid vaccine, earmarked for September 26.
Personal training will resume for up to five fully vaccinated people outdoors and the travel limit will be extended from 10km to 15km.
Covid-19 restrictions have eased for metropolitan Melbourne to allow outdoor picnics and increased recreation (pictured, a family are seen having a picnic on Sunday in Melbourne)
More freedoms will be returned once 70 per cent of Victoria’s population is double vaccinated with lockdown to be lifted and the 9pm-5am curfew scrapped.
‘We are fast approaching those milestones,’ Mr Andrews said on Sunday. ‘At that point we have got to open the place up.
‘Because remaining closed forever, has its own cost, in every sense of that word. So this is a very difficult balancing act.’
All school children will be allowed to return for on-site learning for a few days a week with childcare to open for children of fully-vaccinated parents.
The travel limit for Melbourne residents will be extended to 25km.
Healthcare workers will be required to have had one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by October 15, with other industries to receive dates for a mandated jab.
The Victorian Government is also working towards making it mandatory to be vaccinated to enter some venues.
But the roadmap came with an announcement Geelong and two regional areas of Victoria have been forced back into lockdown after 507 new cases of Covid and one death was recorded on Sunday.
Mr Andrews said they state would be carefully balancing the easing of restrictions with the pressure on the Victorian health system (pictured, two women on the seafront in Geelong)
Caseloads in Greater Geelong and Mitchell Shire have seen a sharp rise with 17 and 15 active cases respectively to Saturday and two more on the Surf Coast (pictured) on Sunday
The city just south of Melbourne joined Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire in a seven-day lockdown from 11.59pm on Sunday after a sudden spike in cases.
Restrictions in the three areas will be the same as those in Ballarat and Melbourne, excluding the curfew.
Caseloads in Geelong and Mitchell Shire have seen a sharp rise with 17 and 15 active cases respectively to Saturday.
A further two new cases in Geelong, two on the Surf Coast and seven new cases in Mitchell Shire were confirmed in Sunday’s numbers.
Under the lockdown restrictions, residents won’t be able to leave home other than for necessary goods and services, caregiving or compassionate reasons including medical care and getting a Covid-19 test.
Authorised work or permitted education, exercise and outdoor social interaction in limited groups, and getting a Covid-19 vaccine are also permitted.
Residents can also leave home to visit their intimate partner or single social bubble buddy.
Shopping, exercise and outdoor social interaction will be limited to 10km from home. Masks will be mandatory indoors and outdoors, and there will still be no visitors allowed to the home.
Residents have four hours a day for exercise and outdoor social interaction, and can meet with one other person, or up to four others from two households if all present have received two vaccine doses. Dependents can also join in.