NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has revealed an image of life beyond lockdown, announcing a three-stage plan for the state after reaching the 70 per cent double-dose vaccination milestone.

Personal services such as hairdressers have the green light to open on October 11.

The roadmap to freedom encompasses three major steps linked to vaccination targets.

Berejiklian confirmed October 11 as the date NSW would reach 70 per cent vaccinated, and lockdown restrictions would begin to ease.

The Premier said the 80 per cent second phase could be reached “as little as two weeks” later, and unvaccinated residents would not be eligible to access freedoms that vaccinated people could until the third phase began on December 1. 

She said October 11 would be “a very disappointing day” for those who had not been vaccinated. 

“If you are not vaccinated, you will have to wait for at least four or five weeks after we’ve already hit the 80 per cent double dose rate in order to participate in things that the rest of us can participate in,” Berejiklian said.

From October 11, vaccinated residents can have up to five fully vaccinated people (not including children 12 and under) in their homes. The relaxed restrictions will signal the return of hospitality, retail, beauty services and gyms with density limits.

While businesses, public facilities and places of worship will reopen under the one person per four square metre rule, patron capacities in some spaces will be capped to ensure COVID-safe spaces.

Also, during this phase:

  • Twenty people will be permitted to gather outdoors. 
  • The two-square-metre rule will apply for outdoor hospitality spaces, with standing permitted outside.
  • Fifty attendees will be permitted at weddings and funerals. Dancing permitted, while eating and drinking activities must be seated. 
  • Up to 500 people can attend ticketed and seated outdoor events.
  • Indoor entertainment and information facilities including cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen with one person per four square metres or 75 per cent fixed seated capacity.
  • Personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons will be capped at five clients per premises.
  • Masks remain mandatory indoors.

While regional travel will no longer recommence at the 70 per cent stage as previously projected, the Government has announced that caravan parks and camping grounds can open, and carpooling will be permitted.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the delay for regional travel was “necessary to give some regional areas the time they need to increase local vaccination rates”.

NSW Health reiterated that “freedoms will apply only to fully vaccinated adults aged 16 years and older, as well as to those with medical exemptions”.

The next phase

Once 80 per cent double-dose vaccination is achieved in late October, restrictions will ease further.

Jams Karaoke and Bar before lockdown and restrictions. Photo supplied.

The Premier advised that “at 80 per cent [double-vaccinated] you will be able to go anywhere freely in NSW, you will be able to stand up and have a drink at a pub, you will be able to obviously consider international travel and other things at that number”.

Berejiklian asked the NSW population to “exercise a very high degree of caution” in the first and second stages in order to minimise transmission of COVID-19 and avoid “overwhelming the hospital system”.

Statewide, once 80 per cent double-vaccination is achieved, residents will be permitted:

  • Up to 10 visitors in a home (not including children 12 and under).
  • Participation in community sport.
  • To travel freely throughout NSW.
  • Weddings with one person per four square metres (uncapped).
  • Funerals with one person per four square metres (uncapped).
  • Dancing, vertical eating and drinking at venues.
  • Attending churches and places of worship with one person per four square metres. No singing. Those who are not fully vaccinated will be allowed.

Masks will remain mandatory in indoor settings for residents over the age of 12.

Venues including retail stores, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers will operate at one person per four square metres and will no longer be constrained by customer cap restrictions.  

Hospitality venues will operate with one person per four square metres inside and one person per two square metres outside. 

While the requirement to be seated while indoors will be removed, group bookings will be restricted to 20 people.

For gyms across the state, classes will be capped at 20 attendees, and like indoor recreation facilities and education facilities, will operate with one person per four square metres. 

Leisure and entertainment facilities are also set to experience a further relaxation of restrictions. 

  • Major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums will operate with one person per four square metres, capped at 5000 people.
  • Venues such as cinemas will operate with one person per four square metres or 75 per cent fixed seated capacity.
  • Two hundred people will be able to attend COVID-safe events, while up to 500 people will be able to attend controlled (ticketed and seated) events.

As outlined in September, students will also return to face-to-face learning on October 25.

Greater freedoms for unvaccinated

The NSW government advised that from December 1, 2021, freedoms would apply to all NSW citizens, regardless of their vaccination status. 

NewRun earlier this year saw 1690 runners participate in the ultimate running festival. Photo: Lee Pigott, Pappigo Images

In the final stage in the roadmap to freedom, limits on the number of visitors to a home would be lifted, and density limits for hospitality, retail and gyms, as well as for entertainment venues and personal services like hairdressers would increase to allow one person per two square metres, both indoors and outdoors. 

There will be no limit on the number of attendees for informal outdoor gatherings, and mask-wearing will only be mandatory on public transport, planes, at airports and for front-of-house hospitality workers.

Weddings, funerals and places of worship will be permitted to host one person per two square metres, and standing activities such as dancing and singing will be permitted. 

The broader phase will include:

  • Major outdoor facilities such as stadiums, entertainment facilities including cinemas, and information and education facilities including libraries will operate with the one person per two square metre rule.
  • Standing permitted at hospitality venues. 
  • Community sport permitted for all. 
  • Working from home at employers’ discretion.

Berejiklian said the release of the plan offered “further certainty” regarding the months ahead. She urged residents to not consider December 1 as “freedom day”, but rather a “staged reopening to getting back to normal”.

She said the roadmap offered residents a clear incentive to get the jab. 

“The message is if you want to be able to have a meal with friends and welcome people in your home you have to get vaccinated,” she said.

“If you don’t and you choose not to that is OK. You will have to wait a long time before you can participate in other activities.”

She said the plan might be “fine-tuned” as health authorities continued to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and was optimistic NSW would “lead the way in showing the nation” how to live with the COVID-19 virus.

For more information on the easing restrictions and on the broader NSW roadmap to freedom, visit NSW Health.  

Maia O’Connor