NSW Covid roadmap explained: what can residents do when state reaches 80% double-dose vaccination and beyond?

·9 min read
<span>Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA</span>
Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

New South Wales has unveiled how it will fully reopen its state after months of lockdowns to curb its Delta outbreak, with freedoms substantially staggered for unvaccinated residents to re-engage with society.

Having already unveiled freedoms residents will be able to enjoy once the state achieves 70% double dose vaccination, the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, on Monday confirmed that this was likely to be achieved within a fortnight, meaning lockdowns will end for vaccinated people from 11 October.

NSW’s reopening will be split into three stages: 70% vaccination coverage, 80% vaccination coverage, and a third and final stage of reopening, set for 1 December.

While only those who are vaccinated will be eligible for the first and second stages of reopening, unvaccinated residents will enjoy the same level of freedom as vaccinated people from 1 December.

Related: ‘Unconscionable’ to lift lockdowns before all Australians with disability can be vaccinated, inquiry says

Gathering, recreation and travel restrictions will be eased from the 80% target and based on spacing requirements, as opposed to person limits, from 1 December, when masks won’t be required in some indoor settings. However, reopening travel from Sydney to regional NSW has been pushed back from the 70% first stage of reopening to the 80% second stage.

Here is everything you need to know about the plan that the deputy premier, John Barilaro, has dubbed the “blueprint for freedom”.

What will be allowed when NSW achieves 80% vaccination?

The second stage of reopening builds on the freedoms from the first stage, which you can read about here.

When 80% vaccination coverage is reached, the following freedoms will apply only to fully vaccinated people over 16 and those with medical exemptions:

Gatherings in the home and outdoor public spaces

  • Up to 10 visitors will be allowed in a home (not including children 12 and under).

  • Up to 20 people can continue to gather in unregulated outdoor settings.

  • Up to 200 people can attend Covid-safe events.

  • Up to 500 people can attend controlled (ticketed and seated) events.

  • Community sport will be permitted.

  • Those who are not fully vaccinated may only gather outdoors in groups of two people.

Venues including hospitality, retail stores and gyms

  • Retail stores can operate at one person per 4 sq metres (those who are not fully vaccinated will continue to only have access to non-critical retail via click-and-collect).

  • Personal services such as hairdressers, spa, nail, beauty, waxing, tattoo and massage can operate with one person per 4 sq m (uncapped).

  • Hospitality venues can operate with one person per 4 sq m inside and one person per 2 sq m outside, with the requirement to be seated while drinking indoors removed. Group bookings will be limited to 20 people. Those who are not fully vaccinated can only access hospitality settings for takeaway.

  • Gyms and indoor recreation facilities (excluding indoor pools) can operate with one person per 4 sq m, capped at 20 people per class.

Major outdoor recreation facilities

  • Major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can operate with one person per 4 sq m, capped at 5,000 people (or by exemption).

Entertainment, information and education facilities

  • Entertainment facilities (including cinemas, theatres and music halls) can operate with one person per 4 sq m or 75% fixed seated capacity (whichever is larger).

  • Information and education facilities (including libraries, galleries and museums) can operate with one person per 4 sq m.

  • Amusement centres and nightclubs will remain closed.

Working from home

  • Employers must continue to allow employees to work from home, if reasonably practicable

  • Employers must require employees who are not fully vaccinated to work from home, if reasonably practicable.

Education

  • Return to school with Covid-safe measures on 25 October (as previously announced).

Weddings, funerals and places of worship

  • One person per 4 sq m (uncapped) for weddings with dancing permitted and eating and drinking allowed while standing. Those who are not fully vaccinated may only attend weddings with a maximum of five guests (no receptions).

  • One person per 4 sq m (uncapped) for funerals. Those who are not fully vaccinated may only attend funerals with a maximum of 10 people.

  • Churches and places of worship can continue to open with one person per 4 sq m, with no singing. Those who are not fully vaccinated will be allowed.

Travel

  • Unrestricted trips between greater Sydney and regional NSW will be permitted

  • Caravan parks and camping grounds can operate, including for those who are not fully vaccinated

  • Carpooling is permitted. Those who are not fully vaccinated can only carpool with their household.

Masks

  • Masks will remain mandatory for all indoor premises and settings, except children under 12.

  • Only hospitality staff will be required to wear a mask while outdoors

What will change from 1 December for the third stage of reopening?

On Wednesday 1 December, the following settings will apply to all NSW citizens, regardless of their vaccination status.

Gatherings in the home and outdoor public spaces

  • No limit on the number of visitors to a home.

  • Density will shift to one person per 2 sq m for indoor and outdoor settings.

  • No limit on the number of people who can attend informal outdoor gatherings.

  • Covid-safe plan required for outdoor events with more than 1,000 people.

  • Community sport permitted for all people.

Venues including hospitality, retail stores and gyms

  • Retail stores can operate at one person per 2 sq m.

  • Personal services such as hairdressers, spa, nail, beauty, waxing, tattoo and massage can operate with one person per 2 sq m.

  • Hospitality venues can operate with one person per 2 sq m inside and outside, with no seating required for eating and drinking.

  • Gyms and indoor recreation facilities, including indoor pools, can operate with one person per 2 sq m (uncapped).

  • Intimate services can open with one person per 4 sq m.

Major outdoor recreation facilities

  • Major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can operate with one person per 2 sq m.

Entertainment, information and education facilities

  • Entertainment facilities (including cinemas, theatres, music halls) can operate with one person per 2 sq m.

  • Information and education facilities (including libraries, museums and galleries) can operate with one person per 2 sq m.

  • Amusement centres and nightclubs can open with one person per 4 sq m.

Working from home

  • Working from home will be at the employer’s discretion.

Education

  • All year groups return to face-to-face learning.

Weddings, funerals and places of worship

  • One person per 2 sqm for weddings with dancing permitted and eating and drinking allowed while standing.

  • One person per 2 sq m for funerals.

  • Churches and places of worship can operate with one person per 2 sq m, with singing permitted.

Travel

  • Domestic travel, including trips between greater Sydney and regional NSW.

  • Caravan parks and camping grounds can operate.

  • Carpooling is permitted.
    Quarantine settings for vaccinated arrivals will be altered. A cap on unvaccinated travellers may remain.

Masks

  • Mask-wearing will be mandatory while travelling on public transport, on planes and at airports, and for front-of-house hospitality workers.

  • Mask wearing is not required when outdoors.

Will overseas travel and quarantine change?

When the state reaches 80% vaccination, it will restore its international quarantine intake to pre-Delta levels.

Quarantine for vaccinated arrivals will be altered, however, a detailed plan for the future of NSW’s quarantine system was not unveiled. We know the state is trialling home quarantine and has said it wants to move to that system later in the year.

Berejiklian flagged that a cap on unvaccinated travellers may remain, but said there could be no caps for vaccinated arrivals.

“If fully vaccinated Aussies are coming home there is no reason why we need to have a cap after a particular number. So I’m all for reuniting Aussies, reuniting families,” she said.

Ultimately, resuming international travel will require the federal government’s approval, as it still has an exit ban in place. Berejiklian said she and the prime minister “have been engaging in very positive conversations” about international travel.

“If the prime minister gives the green light to international traveling … we will be absolutely thrilled with that.”

When will the reopening stages take effect?

Berejiklian believes stage one will come into effect from 11 October, and that based on current vaccination rates, 80% vaccination will be achieved to enter the second stage of reopening about two weeks later, on 25 October.

The third and final stage, including for unvaccinated people, will occur from 1 December, regardless of vaccination rate, however Berejiklian said she hopes for a rate of 90% by this time.

So unvaccinated people will be able to wait until then and get the same freedoms as vaccinated people?

Yes, however, Berejiklian flagged that individual businesses will likely prevent unvaccinated people from their premises.

What about travelling to other states and territories?

This depends on other jurisdictions’ reopening plans.

Will there still be lockdowns in NSW after the final reopening?

Berejiklian refused to rule out future lockdowns after the final stage of reopening, but said localised orders not to leave an area were more likely.

“We don’t envisage we will ever have a situation like the one experienced ever again ... the chance of having any of those strict measures are very very unlikely, but I will never say no. We know you never know what’s around the corner in a pandemic.”

What will happen to unvaccinated people in regional NSW who aren’t in lockdown right now? Will they have to reenter lockdown?

Yes. The reopening plan applies to the whole of the state and Barilaro confirmed that unvaccinated residents of regional NSW who are currently not in lockdown will lose their freedoms if they are not fully vaccinated by 11 October.

How do booster shots fit into these targets?

They don’t. However, Berejiklian said she was “very keen” to put booster plans in place and would urge national cabinet to discuss the issue again.

What else are we in the dark about?

Berejiklian noted there were two issues the government still needed to provide clarity on either later this week or early next week: how the new freedoms would be policed for compliance; and what the state’s testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine rules would look like.

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