The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, says the state won’t have a “freedom day” but will instead work “step by step” towards reopening.
As the premier announced that the state has crossed the 84% mark in first Covid vaccine doses and 56% in second doses, she asked residents to be patient with the government’s reopening plan.
“It must be done cautiously and we must remember that even though people may be fully vaccinated, if you are vulnerable and have other conditions, you can still succumb and get the disease in a serious way, or worse,” Berejiklian said.
“So while we are all looking forward, [it’s] almost a gallop to the finish line in terms of the double dose, we need to make sure that what we do at 70 and 80% is done cautiously and also moderately.”
But the premier refused to give any further details on when restrictions will be eased for the fully vaccinated, and how contact tracing and isolation requirements will operate once 70% and 80% of people aged over 16 are fully vaccinated.
“We’ve been pretty clear that we will start opening up on the Monday after we have the 70% double dose. It really depends on how quickly people take up a second dose,” she said.
NSW recorded 1,043 new locally acquired cases on Friday, the fourth consecutive day case numbers have hovered around 1,000.
The state also recorded 11 deaths, including a woman in her 80s who died at home and tested positive after her death. A resident of the Hardi Guildford aged care facility, a man in his 80s, became the fourth death linked to the facility.
The death of a man in his 40s, who died at his home in western Sydney, is being referred to the coroner, with his diagnosis also made after his death.
A man in his 50s died at the Broken Hill Base hospital, with NSW Health saying in a statement he had underlying medical conditions.
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said cases had begun declining in some of the 12 local government areas of concern, highlighting a particular decline in cases in Canterbury-Bankstown.
“Of note, we have continued to see a decline in cases in some of the heavily affected local government areas such as Canterbury Bankstown and Cumberland,” she said.
“It is very important that we continue to act responsibly to drive down those Covid infections. We are seeing pleasing declines and that just shows that with a combination of us trying to limit our social interactions, ensuring that we are vaccinated, that we can control the level of Covid.”
Chant said she was concerned about rising case numbers to the south-west of Sydney, after 103 cases were reported in the Illawarra Shoalhaven local health district.
She also warned that case numbers continue to remain high in some regional areas such as the Central Coast, Hunter-New England, and western and far-western NSW.
The virus was also detected in waste waters in Jindabyne, Lightning Ridge, Crookwell and South Lismore, with Chant urging residents there to get tested.
It came as the premier was asked if it was safe to reopen the state and allow regional travel when vulnerable communities continue to lag behind vaccine targets. Berejiklian laid the blame on the commonwealth government.
“Commonwealth government was responsible for vaccinating those vulnerable populations and we have stepped up in NSW [and] found where the gaps are unengaged at a very local community level,” she said.
“We want to ensure everybody is well-informed and has access to protect themselves and their loved ones, and we appreciate that in some, not many, but in some pockets of community, there are people who are still concerned and our job is to make sure we provide as much information as support and bring forward every body to gather as we can.”
The government also confirmed plans to introduce a pilot program for international students to return to the state.
Under the program, which has been approved by the federal government, students will be quarantined at a building in Redfern “retrofitted” to accomodate up to 650 students.
The deputy premier, John Barilaro, welcomed the announcement, saying the pilot program was “stage one” of a plan to welcome back international students.
“The safety of the people of NSW is paramount and we are taking no risks. All participating students will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised Covid-19 vaccine, and strict quarantine protocols will be in place,” he said.
“Importantly, this plan will not come at the expense of any Australian citizen or resident wishing to return home.”