NSW sets December date for 'COVID-normal'

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has revealed the roadmap for life in NSW to return to almost-normal.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has revealed the roadmap for life in NSW to return to almost-normal.

Life in NSW will return to near-normal in December for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated as part of the state's roadmap to ending COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the unvaccinated will have almost no freedoms until this time while the fully jabbed ease back into society from October.

And while the state readies to open, Cowra in the central west will remain in lockdown for another week due to the ongoing risk of COVID-19 transmissions.

Stay-at-home orders for Yass Valley will lift from midnight as scheduled.

NSW reported 787 new local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday as the government revealed its plan for 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage and beyond.

These plans build upon the freedoms to be restored for fully vaccinated residents at 70 per cent coverage, including small indoor gatherings and access to hospitality venues and hairdressers.

Those freedoms will almost certainly be triggered on October 11.

At 80 per cent coverage, expected around October 25, travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW will again be permitted.

Gathering caps will increase to 10 fully vaccinated visitors in homes, 20 people outdoors, a maximum of 200 people for COVID-safe events and up to 500 people at ticketed and seated events.

Entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity, libraries and museums can reopen and community sport will resume. Nightclubs will remain closed.

Caps will lift for retail stores, personal services such as hairdressers and hospitality venues, but group bookings are limited to 20 people.

Gathering limits will also lift for weddings, funerals and religious services, while masks will remain mandatory indoors.

A plan for aged care settings is yet to be completed.

From December 1, unvaccinated people are able to reintegrate with society when the "four square metre" social distancing rule reverts to two square metres.

Almost all remaining restrictions will ease at this point, including on all gatherings, all business, office, hospitality and entertainment settings and all weddings, funerals and religious services.

NSW businesses predominantly welcomed the planned freedoms from October and the end of uncertainty.

Business Council CEO Jennifer Westacott said ordering, rosters and more staff for the busy Christmas period could now be planned in advance.

"By nominating 1st December as the date for the state to fully reopen, NSW is putting an end to the stop-start mindset that undermines confidence, kills jobs and holds back our recovery," she said.

All face-to-face schooling will return in NSW, caps on vaccinated international arrivals to Sydney Airport will likely be removed and masks will only be mandatory on public transport or planes.

The date is the beginning of the "COVID-normal" era and almost certainly the end of statewide or region-wide lockdowns.

But Premier Gladys Berejiklian begged residents to stay disciplined until October 11 to keep virus transmission and hospitalisations low.

"I don't want to be the party pooper but let's not think about this as a Freedom Day, let's think about this as a staged reopening to getting back to normal," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

"But there is no doubt that for those of us who are fully vaccinated, 70 per cent double-dose life will feel so much better.

"Fingers crossed, by the time of that third stage of reopening on December 1, we anticipate we will have 92 per cent or 93 per cent of our adult population completely vaccinated."

Having dangled the possibility of international travel on Sunday, Ms Berejiklian on Monday said she hoped NSW and Victoria could present a "unity ticket" on reopening borders soon.

However, the premier admitted this would rely on airlines resuming flights to Sydney Airport once the restrictions end.

Meanwhile, outdoor pools were permitted to reopen everywhere in NSW from Monday and construction sites can return to full capacity.

There are currently 1155 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 214 in intensive care units and 115 on ventilators.

Australian Associated Press