Deputy Premier John Barilaro says there is light at the end of the tunnel for rural and regional NSW, for areas where there are no COVID-19 cases, as the NSW crisis cabinet meets this week to determine which areas have the potential to come out of lockdown on September 10.
“If we’ve got big parts of the regions that have no cases, and now we’ve got plenty of data, weeks of it, to support us doing that, then there is light at the end of the tunnel. I genuinely do believe that big parts of regional and rural NSW will come out,” Mr Barilaro said.
He said regions which stayed in lockdown beyond September 10 would remain under stay-at-home orders until the state reached its 70 per cent adult vaccination target.
According to the latest estimates, NSW is on track to hit that target around mid-October.
“Health will be quite strong on case numbers and where there are cases it could be that region could be locked down further, then the Sydney roadmap at 70 per cent would apply to all those LGAs that are still locked down when we hit 70 per cent,” Mr Barilaro said.
For areas that do come out of lockdown this week, Mr Barilaro said restrictions may not align with those set for regions pre-lockdown, and could be a mix of restrictions, but “absolutely more open and more freedoms”.
“Then when we get to the 70 per cent [double vaccination] roadmap, which is a statewide roadmap, that’ll unlock any other restrictions that may have been held back on September 10,” he said.
With many regional areas in NSW relying on tourist numbers to boost local economy, regional travel will form part of future discussions with Health, Mr Barilaro said, stressing that vaccination will be essential to regional tourism.
“We are engaging with Health and we more than likely will be talking further to the roadmap early [this] week, but we are looking at regional travel from Sydney,” he said.
“Living with COVID isn’t just a Sydney thing. Living with COVID and the new COVID normal is for the whole state and the whole nation. We said that we would lift restrictions or certain restrictions when we get to the 70 per cent state average, and that includes the regions.
“When we do open up Sydney, it will be for the vaccinated, the unvaccinated won’t be given any further freedoms, it’s that simple. So if we open travel for Sydney to the regions, it will be only the vaccinated.
“At the same time, I would be more comfortable that if someone were staying in an Airbnb or other accommodation or going to the local pub, that those staff are also vaccinated, so this is why the regions need to get onboard the vaccination program because it could limit, in the future, any freedom or travel to regional and rural NSW which will be detrimental from a regional tourism perspective.”
Service NSW is finalising technology within its app, which will show an individual’s vaccination status as part of the current QR code check-in system.
“For customers when you check-in, there will be an indication that you are vaccinated or not vaccinated. We will make it very simple and very easy,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Businesses will have to register and register their staff, but a lot of this information isn’t there yet. We’ll release it as we progress in the weeks ahead, but industry will know well in advance, and we’ve been talking about it with industry as well.”
The crisis cabinet will meet on Wednesday, with a decision on the lockdown expected to be announced on Thursday.