Dominic Perrottet unveils changes to NSW's reopening plan from next week

The Australian Medical Association has raised concerns the revised reopening plan has sidelined public health advice in favour of economic recovery.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks during a press conference at Government House on 6 October, 2021 in Sydney.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks during a press conference at Government House on 6 October, 2021 in Sydney. Source: Getty Images AsiaPac

New South Wales has recorded 587 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases as authorities unveil "measured" changes to the state's roadmap out of lockdown. 

There were also eight further deaths reported in the 24 hours to 8pm Wednesday, including a man in his 20s. It takes the toll for the outbreak to 403.

There are 911 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 181 in intensive care units and 85 on ventilators.

The changes to the roadmap follow the state reaching its 70 per cent double vaccination milestone, triggering an easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated adults as planned on Monday.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the changes at a 9am press conference on Thursday without a NSW Health representative present. 

"We need to open up, we need to open up safely and that's why we have made the decisions we have," he told reporters, following a "very productive and constructive" crisis cabinet meeting late on Wednesday. 

"These changes today are measured, sensible, and ensure we open up in a very safe way."

From Monday, indoor home gatherings will double to 10 visitors (not counting children 12 and under) and outdoor gatherings will increase from 20 to 30. 

Caps on outdoor weddings and funerals will double to 100. Indoor pools will also be re-opened for swimming lessons, squad training, lap swimming and rehab activities. 

In addition, all children will return to school by 25 October, one week sooner than the prior plan.

Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 12 will return as previously announced on 18 October, with all other years to follow the following week. 

"This is not over, but to get to 70 per cent is incredibly successful for everybody right across New South Wales. We're going to get to 80 per cent very, very shortly as well," Mr Perrottet said. 

Perrottet unveils new reopening roadmap for NSW

The premier also announced changes to the roadmap from the Monday after the state reaches its 80 per cent double vaccination target. 

This includes an increased cap from 500 to 3,000 people for controlled and ticketed outdoor events and the reopening of night clubs for seated drinking only. 

Home gatherings will lift to 20 visitors (previously 10), and outdoor gatherings to 50 (up from 20). Masks will no longer be required in office buildings. 

Deputy Premier Paul Toole said workers in regional areas, excluding Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Central Coast, can return to work on 11 October if they've had one vaccine dose. 

Workers will then have until 1 November to be fully vaccinated. 

The government stressed these changes to restrictions at 70 and 80 per cent will continue to be for fully vaccinated people only until 1 December when some apply for the unvacccinated. 

Mr Perrottet said the changes did not indicate he disagreed with the roadmap laid out by his predecessor, Gladys Berejiklian. 

“No, I worked very closely on the preparation of [that] roadmap with [tourism] minister [Stuart] Ayres and the former deputy premier John Barilaro," he said. 

"Any government has different views … and I think based on where we are today in terms of where the case numbers are, the fact the vaccination rate was at 70 per cent - it gave me an opportunity to reflect on it."

Despite the absence of Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, he said he had met "for some time" with Dr Chant and Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Wednesday. 

Doctors voice concern

The Australian Medical Association said later on Thursday it was “very concerned” by the move, saying it looked as if there had been a shift in approach to the pandemic.

“The NSW Government’s Crisis Cabinet has morphed into an Economic Recovery Committee,” AMA President Omar Khorshid said in a statement.

“This strongly suggests to the community that health advice will no longer guide the NSW Government as it navigates this critical phase of the pandemic.”

Dr Korshid said the vaccination rate for those under 40 years old, who are among the key virus transmission age group, was below the 70 per cent target.

“NSW must not be reckless at this critical time. That would cost more lives, cause more suffering, and put the economies of NSW and the nation at risk,” he said.

“If the NSW ‘COVID and Economic Recovery Committee’ moves to open the economy faster than is advised by health experts and the modelling, they will ultimately be held accountable for the impacts of those decisions, including potentially excess deaths, overwhelmed hospitals and the economic catastrophe that would accompany further lockdowns. 

“The AMA is concerned that the decisions taken in NSW since the change of leadership signal a very different approach to that taken under the leadership of former Premier Gladys Berejiklian.”

Meanwhile, lockdown will be extended until Monday for a number of areas in regional NSW including Oberon, Snowy Monaro and Menindee and Sunset Strip.

With Rashida Yosufzai, AAP. 

Published 7 October 2021 at 9:17am, updated 7 October 2021 at 6:15pm
By Dijana Damjanovic
Source: SBS News