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Mask, vaccine rules ease as NSW hits 70% vaxxed

·3-min read
Woman on phone in office wearing face mask, NSW Premier Domnic Perrottet speaks at COVID-19 press conference.
NSW Premier has revealed the changes to the post-lockdown roadmap. (Images: Getty).

Office workers will not need to wear masks at work once 80 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated, while regional NSW workers will be able to return to workplaces from Monday even if they’ve only received one vaccination.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the changes on Thursday morning as part of the state’s updated COVID-19 reopening strategy.

Hospitality venues and events businesses will also see looser restrictions.

The roadmap changes come as the state hits the crucial 70 per cent fully vaccinated milestone.

This is what the new roadmap means for workers and businesses in NSW.

As of Monday: Vaccinations for regional workers ease

As of Monday 11 October, regional workers who need to attend a workplace will not be required to have received both doses to go to work.

“This has been done because in some areas it was difficult to be able to get vaccines into those areas and what we are doing is giving a grace period to allow those businesses to be able to open their doors from Monday,” Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres said.

“This will include regional areas outside Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains area, Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong.”

However, these workers will still need to have received both vaccinations by 1 November.

As of 80%: Mask rules for office workers soften

Office workers will no longer need to wear masks in the office once 80 per cent of the eligible NSW population is vaccinated, which Perrottet predicts will occur within two weeks.

“As we open up, it's very important we get people back to workars the stay-at-home orders are lifted. We want to do that safely,” Perrottet said.

As of 80%: Events businesses, nightclubs get greater freedoms

Additionally, ticketed outdoor events will have their capacities increased from 500 to 3,000, while nightclubs will be able to open.

Previously, nightclubs were to remain closed until 1 December.

However, dancing is still off the cards and access to these venues and events will still be limited to vaccinated people.

Why all the changes? It’s all in the name

Perrottet, who officially took office on Tuesday, has been a vocal supporter of opening up NSW earlier.

He confirmed on Wednesday that the NSW government will rename the crisis cabinet as the COVID and Economic Recovery Committee. The committee will hear more from economic experts including NSW Chief Economist Stephen Walter.

The final crisis cabinet meeting occurred on Wednesday evening.

"As we hit the key 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination targets in coming days, we need to ensure that our focus remains on keeping people safe and continuing to strive for above 90 per cent vaccination rates," Perrottet said on Wednesday.

"Alongside this, we must have a sharp focus on how we support businesses and ensure people return to work and give the NSW economy the best chance of bouncing back."

Questioned on Thursday about why NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant was absent from the press conference, the premier said that while the COVID-19 pandemic poses health risks, it is also an economic challenge. 

“We know that this is not just a health crisis, it's an economic crisis, too, and New South Wales has been incredibly successful,” he said.

The changes are "sensible" and have been approved by Dr Chant, Perrottet added.

He said that while he understood business’ concerns about communicating vaccination policies to customers come Monday 11 October, he didn’t believe there was any alternative to opening up.

“We need to open up safely and that's why we have made the decisions we have, so only those who are double vaccinated are able to attend... those venues where the restrictions we are lifting,” he said.

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