27 Sep 2021, 09:36
Update : 27 Sep 2021, 11:11

Sydney gets 'blueprint for freedom' as virus cases fall

 SYDNEY, Sept 27, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Vaccinated Sydney residents will finally
emerge from a lengthy Covid lockdown by mid-October, Australian officials
said Monday, outlining a "blueprint for freedom" as case numbers fell in the

   Stay-at-home orders are set to be lifted in Sydney and surrounding New
South Wales when the double-dose vaccination rate hits 70 percent, with state
premier Gladys Berejiklian saying "quite confidently" that was now expected
to occur on October 11.

   Shuttered pubs, restaurants and shops will be allowed to reopen to the
vaccinated while friends and families living across Australia's biggest city
will be able to reunite for the first time in more than three months.

   "It is just this week and next week that we have to hang in there for,"
Berejiklian said.

   "We are nearly, nearly there, and let's not give up at the last minute."

   Deputy premier John Barilaro said the "blueprint for freedom" would allow
travel across New South Wales once 80 percent of over-16s are fully
vaccinated, which is likely to be hit by the end of October.

   Restrictions on guest numbers at funerals and weddings would be lifted at
the same time, while sporting fixtures would also be permitted to resume.

   However, unvaccinated adults will need to wait until at least December 1
to enjoy the same freedoms, when it is predicted that around 90 percent of
the eligible population will be vaccinated, officials said.

   The announcement came as new daily cases dipped below 800 in New South
Wales on Monday -- down from peaks of around 1,500 earlier in September --
and the number of adults with at least one vaccine dose reached 85 percent.

   Berejiklian warned that hospitals still faced being overwhelmed by a surge
in Covid-19 patients in the coming weeks.

   "We know that once we start reopening at 70 percent double dose that the
case numbers will go through the roof," she said.

   "But what will protect us is the fact that so many people have received at
least the first dose of the vaccine and those people will have that extra
layer of protection against ending up in hospital or worse."

   Australia has been grappling with a winter spike in the highly contagious
Delta coronavirus variant that forced its two biggest cities, Sydney and
Melbourne, into months-long lockdowns.

   But a once-sluggish vaccine rollout has picked up pace across the country,
prompting leaders to outline cautious reopening plans including the mooted
resumption of international travel by the end of this year.


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