NSW has become Australia’s first state to vaccinate 80 per cent of people aged over 16 with at least one COVID-19 jab, prompting a surprise easing of restrictions in some parts of Sydney.
The milestone came as 1,259 new infections were confirmed in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday, and the state’s pandemic death toll reached 252 after 12 fatalities were announced.
The number of deaths was NSW’s equal highest daily total.
After announcing the state had reached the 80 per cent immunisation target, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the evening curfew that had been imposed on several areas in Sydney’s west and south-west would be scrapped immediately.
The curfew has been in place since August 23 and was brought in to stop people leaving their homes for non-essential reasons between 9:00pm and 5:00am.
It applied to Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith.
Ms Berejiklian said there was “light at the end of the tunnel” but “we still have work to do”.
She said the high first-dose vaccine rate, improved compliance in the local government areas (LGAs) as well as the need to provide some mental relief prompted authorities to scrap the curfew.
However, she warned those living in the hotspots in Sydney’s west to not let their guard down.
“We can’t move on anything else just now. We need everybody to hold the line,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Please make sure that if you live in those local government areas of concern that you stick to every other rule that’s in place. We’ve seen a stabilisation in the last few days and we don’t want to see that trend go the wrong way.”
The Premier said 47.5 per cent of the over-16 population had now received both doses of a vaccine and it would only be a “few weeks” before the state reached the 70 per cent double dose rate which would trigger a widespread relaxation of restrictions.
She said given how vaccine uptake was tracking, the 70 per cent double jab target may be hit earlier than expected.
“If you’re due to have a second jab, please get it. All of us can enjoy freedoms a little sooner if possible.”
Of the 12 people who died, 10 were unvaccinated, one had received one dose and one – a Western Sydney man in his 90s with underlying health conditions – was fully immunised.
He acquired his infection at the Hardi Aged Care facility in Guildford and died at Westmead Hospital.
The youngest person to die yesterday was a woman in her 30s who had underlying health conditions and died at Royal North Shore Hospital.
One of the 12 fatalities was a woman in her 60s who died at home – the others died in hospital.
The Premier delivered a stern message to any business intending to serve people who weren’t vaccinated when 70 per cent of people aged over 16 are fully immunised and many businesses are permitted to open next month.
“All staff and all patrons at 70 per cent double dose will need to be fully vaccinated,” she said.
“At 70 per cent, if you’re not vaccinated, it will be a health order and the law that if you’re not vaccinated you can’t attend venues on the road map.”
She said the rules were “black and white” and the penalties for purposely defying orders or not taking enough responsibility to check customers vaccination status would be announced in coming weeks.
The government is seeking legal advice about how the rules can be enforced, Ms Berejiklian said, and it may differ depending on the size of the business.
The government is still working on how the state will function once the 80 per cent double dose threshold is passed but the Premier today hinted that if a business was willing to have a lower venue capacity, they may be able to accept unvaccinated patrons.
Fully immunising 80 per cent of the population against COVID-19 is seen as critical in Australia’s vaccine roadmap, outlined in the Doherty Report.
Once 80 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said COVID-19 would begin to be treated more like a seasonal flu, lockdowns would be a thing of the past and international travel would be possible.
There are currently 1,241 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospitals in NSW, with 234 people in intensive care, 108 of whom require ventilation.
There were 137,498 COVID-19 tests conducted yesterday compared with the previous day’s total of 114,084.
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