NSW is on track to hit its 70 per cent double jab target earlier than estimated as the state recorded 1,022 new cases and 10 deaths.
The Byron and Tweed shires in far northern NSW will be plunged into a snap seven day lockdown from 5pm Tuesday after an infected Sydneysider travelled to the region.
Kempsey on the mid north coast was also plunged into lockdown, a day after daily infections dropped below 1,000 for the first time in a month.
More than 53 per cent of eligible NSW residents are fully vaccinated as the government eased more restrictions with the announcement of a friends bubble for under-18s, where kids can visit each other in groups of three.
‘This will allow young people to have friendship groups inside their home but I emphasise that it must be – we’ve got to be balanced about this – it must be in households where the adults are all double-vaccinated,’ health minister Brad Hazzard said.
‘We’ve got to keep our young people as safe as we can. We’ve got to recognise the need for mental health to be recognised and socialisation and all the things young people do as part of growing up but also keep them safe.’
The ten deaths included eight men and two women, taking the death toll from the current outbreak to 255.
Six were from south-western Sydney with tone each from the city’s west, north-west, north and south-east.
Six of the victims weren’t unvaccinated.
Of the 1,266 cases in hospital, 244 people in intensive care with almost half on a ventilator.
The Sydney suburbs of Greenacre, Guildford, Bankstown, Revesby, Merrylands, Fairfield, Liverpool, Condell Park, Auburn and Blacktown remain areas of concern for health officials.
Mr Hazzard said the government is looking at restrictions surrounding other visitations such as loved ones in aged care
‘I think the aged care is a huge issue for us and all of us want to visit – there would be few of us who wouldn’t have somebody in an aged care facility that we wouldn’t want to visit,’ he said.
‘There obviously has to some safeguards in that regard. It comes down largely to the advice given to the aged care facilities to keep the virus out.’
In an interview with the Today Show on Tuesday, Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed ‘Freedom Day’ may be as early as October 11.
‘At this stage, it does look like it (the 70 per cent target) will happen just in the first week of October,’ Mr Barilaro told the program.
‘We said it’d be the Monday following. So, look, it’s very possible that it’s the 11th of October.
‘But definitely in the first or second week of October we’ll get the state open.’
The news is welcome relief to millions of residents in Sydney and surrounding regions desperate to be released from three months of lockdown with almost 53 per cent of the NSW population now fully jabbed.
The deputy premier confirmed who aren’t vaccinated will initially miss out on freedoms until the state hits the 80 per cent double dose target as he issued a blunt warning to those yet to roll their sleeves.
‘We’ve said before 80 per cent, nothing will happen but we’re just determining what happens at and above 80 per cent,’ Mr Barilaro said.
‘The crisis committee are considering that as we speak this week and we’ll look at what it looks like.
‘But it won’t be what it is today, there’s no doubt about that.
‘It’d be lesser restrictions but for those what are vaccinated that’s where the freedoms are so my message to everybody: get vaccinated.’
He stressed he and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian are on the same page when it comes to when the unvaccinated will enjoy the same freedoms.
NSW recorded 935 cases on Monday as infections dropped 1,000 for the first time in a month.
Mr Barilaro said it’s too early to say whether case numbers have peaked.
‘We peaked a couple of Saturdays ago when we were almost 1600 cases,’ he said.
‘Since then we’ve had a bit of a roller- coaster ride, as low as 1100, up as high as 1300, but then yesterday under a thousand.’
‘It may be possible that we peaked.
‘We predicted we would peak at this time, and let’s see what the next few days and what Saturday looks like as it seems to be Saturday where the big numbers normally come in.’