With just weeks until a vast range of coronavirus restrictions are set to ease in NSW, finer details of how localised lockdowns will be triggered are still yet to be determined.
Once the vaccination rate hits 70 per cent, which could be as soon as October 8, statewide lockdowns will be a thing of the past, and instead targeted to single LGAs.
But it isn’t clear what the minimum number of cases will be that would plunge an area back into harsh restrictions.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro told NCA NewsWire lockdowns over a single case, as seen on Tuesday in Byron Shire, Tweed and Kempsey, will likely be a thing of the past – but stopped short of giving certainty on the matter.
Mr Barilaro said one-case lockdowns of bush towns “shouldn’t” be happening anymore after the 70 per cent milestone is reached, even if the local community has a lower vaccination rate than the state average.
“The roadmap is intended for the whole state, which means with 70 per cent of our population vaccinated, we shouldn’t see snap lock downs as a result of just one case,” Mr Barilaro said.
“However, should cases spike, a targeted approach may be used to suppress the virus, as advised by NSW Health.”
Camera IconNSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said one-case lockdowns would likely be a thing of the past after the jab goal was reached. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia
Deputy chief health officer Marianne Gale said on Tuesday that NSW Health officials make an assessment for each local outbreak to see if a lockdown is warranted.
“For every area, we do a thorough risk assessment from a public health perspective in looking at whether a return to stay-at-home orders is needed,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
“And so in some areas there may be a case, but if they’re isolated and haven’t actually been out and about, or there’s no broader exposure risk to the community, then a return to stay-at-home is not necessarily what we would be recommending.”
However the health department didn’t directly answer a question on whether its approach to recommending lockdowns would change once the 70 per cent target is reached.
Camera IconNSW is racing towards 70 per cent vaccination levels. NCA NewsWire Christian Gilles Credit: News Corp Australia
“The finer details of the roadmap are currently being worked through by the NSW government, but there will be requirements in place to ensure only those who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine can take advantage of the freedoms,” a NSW Health spokeswoman said.
“Further information will be provided as we get closer to 70 per cent of our population being double vaccinated.”
A person with insight into the government’s planning for life after mass vaccination said the goal at the moment is suppressing cases as much as possible.
But case suppression won’t be as big of a priority once the vaccination target is reached, so a handful of local cases isn’t likely to shut down a community after that, the person said – though they added this would not be impossible.
Camera IconByron Bay was among the latest regional communities to go back into lockdown. NCA NewsWire / Scott Powick Credit: News Corp Australia
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously said a “surge” in cases could warrant lockdowns in the future, but did not define what would count as a surge.
“People at 70 per cent double dose will have freedoms,” she said when announcing the roadmap.
“But if there is a surge or unexpected things arise, the government will give advice that people in particular areas or towns may need to restrict their movements in the local government area as opposed to going all over the state.”
Since restrictions eased for much of regional NSW on September 11, several communities have been thrown back into lockdown over a single local infection.
On Tuesday afternoon, Byron, Tweed and Kempsey Shires were plunged back into lockdown after a positive case visited the area, while Cowra was locked down the day before over another singular case.
Yass, Albury, Lismore, Glen Innes, Hilltops, and Cowra have also re-entered restrictions in the past 10 days.
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