Fully vaccinated Australians could soon get exemptions from Covid lockdown restrictions as Gladys Berejiklian prepares to sign off on a proposal allowing some businesses to reopen.
The ‘Freedom Plan’ penned by New South Wales government ministers and officials is expected to be finalised next week if approved by the Premier.
Under the controversial vaccine passport-style scheme, when the state’s vaccination rate hits 70 per cent, those who are double-jabbed will be permitted to dine in outdoor restaurant settings, train at the gym or have a drink in beer gardens with capacity restrictions in place, The Australian reported.
Customers would gain entry to venues by proving their fully inoculated status with an app displaying vaccination certificates linked to Medicare records.
Fully vaccinated Australians could given the jump on Covid lockdown as Gladys Berejiklian prepares to sign off on a proposal that would allow double-jabbed residents back in the pub. Pictured: Revellers at Sydney’s Coogee Bay Hotel before lockdown began
Sydney’s 12 LGAs ‘of concern’, including Bankstown (pictured on Thursday) are unlikely to see any reprieve from gruelling restrictions anytime soon
What we know about the New South Wales ‘Freedom Plan’
The ‘Freedom Plan’, yet to be signed off on by Gladys Berejiklian, would allow fully vaccinated residents to get the jump on the state’s Covid lockdown.
But the proposal wouldn’t come into effect until 70 per cent of the NSW population have received both doses.
Here’s the roadmap out of lockdown:
There will be little relief for businesses but individuals living outside Sydney’s 12 Local Government Areas of concern may see slightly more freedoms.
It is not entirely clear what they will be, but one likely possibility is an expansion of the ‘singles bubble’ rule to improve mental health.
– 70 per cent vaccination rate
– Schools could re-open on October 5.
– Fully vaccinated residents could be allowed to dine in outdoor dinning settings, have a drink in beer gardens and return to the gym
– 80 per cent vaccination rate
– Nightclubs to re-open for those who’ve had both jabs
– Case numbers will determine if the rest of the population will be able to emerge from lockdown
The plan is promising news for Sydneysiders who have been under stay-at-home order for 55 days, but unlikely to come into effect until early October.
However there may be some earlier relief from the gruelling lockdown with submissions to the government by NSW chief psychiatrist, Murray Wright, suggesting that some restrictions should be eased for the sake of mental health.
The development comes despite NSW recording its highest ever daily Covid case total of 681, as well as one death.
It is not entirely clear what measures may be loosened but an expansion to ‘singles bubbles’ outside of the 12 Local Government Areas of concern in Covid-ravaged Sydney is on the cards.
But those in the hotspot LGAs, concentrated in Sydney’s virus-riddled west and south-west, are unlikely to see any chances come September.
Premier Berejiklian has faced immense scrutiny over her handling of the state’s Covid crisis and was heavily criticised for hinting that life could go back to normal when National Cabinet vaccination targets outlined by the Doherty Institute are reached – but only if case numbers start falling.
The so-called ‘Freedom Plan’ has been penned in secret by ministers and advisors at the highest levels of the New South Wales government and is expected to be finalised next week. Pictured: Diner have breakfast at Sydney’s Albert and Moore Cafe in Freshwater on May 15, 2020, when the first lockdown was eased
In order to enter a venue, a person would simply flash a certificate or scan in with a QR Code to prove they were fully-vaccinated (pictured, a woman using a QR code to check in at a Manly supermarket)
‘The Doherty report says that if you want significant freedoms you need 70 per cent of your population fully vaccinated… and we intend to implement our policies in that regard,’ she said earlier this week.
‘However we are currently in lockdown and if in September and October we have high rates of vaccinations and certain communities indicate a lower number of cases there are opportunities for us to see what additional freedoms we give people.
‘Does it mean we will live like we did before the outbreak? No, but what it does mean is that people will be able to do more than what they can today.’
At the moment 55.2 per cent of NSW residents over 18 have received their first dose, with just 29.3 per cent fully vaccinated.
Premier Berejiklian (pictured) has faced immense scrutiny over her handling of the state’s Covid crisis – but is now hoping to establish a roadmap for NSW to leave lockdown
At the moment 55.2 per cent of NSW residents over 18 have received their first dose, with just 29.3 per cent fully vaccinated (pictured, a walker in Sydney’s Centennial Park)
Vaccine passports have been a hot political topic in Australia and throughout the world, but Down Under the business community has been a major driver behind the idea, seeing it as a ticket to freedom and an answer to the relentless cycle of lockdowns that have crippled their establishments.
Under the NSW government proposal, anyone who has received both jabs would be issued with a commonwealth-assigned vaccination certificate through Medicare.
In order to enter a venue, a person would simply flash the certificate or scan in with a QR Code to prove they were fully-vaccinated.
Although retail shops and outdoor dining settings are expected to re-open at the 70 per cent vaccination rate, high-risk indoor venues such as nightclubs are unlikely to be up and running until the population hits the 80 per cent target.
Those in the hotspot LGAs, concentrated in Sydney’s virus-riddled west and south-west, are unlikely to see any chances come September (pictured, shoppers in the south-west on Thursday)
Police are seen outside an apartment complex in Campsie in Sydney’s south-west on Thursday, with all residents plunged into 14-day isolation after several caught the virus
The no standing while eating or drinking rule is also set to remain in place until the state eclipses 80 per cent coverage, and is unlikely to be changed until much later in the year.
The Berejiklian government’s roadmap out of lockdown could also see children return to the classroom for the beginning of term four on October 5, however if daily infection rates continue to increase this may be reconsidered.
The reason a vaccine passport style system is preferred over a gradual region-wide re-opening is because health officials fear they would be rewarding unvaccinated Australians lucky enough to be living in regions with high rates of inoculation.
Likewise, they feel it would punish vaccinated Australia living in areas with low rates of inoculation.
The plan comes as Scott Morrison on Thursday announced young people aged 16 to 39, who are highly mobile and more at risk of both spreading the virus, will be be able to book the Pfizer vaccine from August 30.
The surprising development comes despite NSW recording its highest ever daily Covid case total of 681, as well as one death (pictured, shoppers in Guilford on Thursday)
The Prime Minister also said he hopes the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will give the green light for children aged 12 and over to start receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with a worrying number of new cases both in NSW and Victoria being found among kids.
The Prime Minister said there are 8.6 million Australians in the 16 – 39 age group and they will be able to book an appointment at some point in the next week.
But amid fears the surprise announcement will prompt young people to cancel their AstraZeneca bookings, Mr Morrison implored Australians not to wait for the Pfizer vaccine.
‘The best vaccine you can get is the one that is available right now,’ he said.
‘If you are in Sydney get vaccinated today. Go out and do that right now. That is my clear advice.
Mr Morrison said young Australians would be able to book their Pfizer appointments at some point in the next week, but implored anyone who can not to wait and instead get the AstraZeneca jab (pictured, queues for the vaccine at the Qudos Bank centre on Thursday)
Australians who get fully-vaccinated have been promised more freedoms – with some small adjustments to rules likely to come within weeks (pictured, a Bondi Beach restaurant shortly after lockdown was lifted in May 2020)
‘And that is what we want Australians to do.’
Australia’s top scientists have advised Australians over 18 in places with Covid-19 outbreaks to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, which carries an extremely low risk of blood clotting as a side effect.
Tens of thousands have taken up the offer but many have decided to wait for Pfizer, which is not as strongly linked to blood clots in young people.
Mr Morrison said young Australians would be able to book their Pfizer appointments at some point in the next week.
‘I want to stress, do not make a booking yet. We will advise when bookings can be made,’ he said.
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival