Major changes to NSW’s Freedom Plan will mean Sydneysiders will enjoy unlimited bookings at restaurants and pack out pubs as thousands of schoolchildren are called back to classrooms a week early.
The cap that restricts booking numbers in venues will be scrapped when the state hits 80 per cent vaccination rates, it has been announced.
Punters will be able to book tables at pubs and restaurants for unlimited numbers, however venues will still have to abide by strict density rules.
A large portion of NSW students will resume face-to-face learning on October 18, following decisions made in a late-night crisis cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The cap restricting group bookings in hospitality venues will be scrapped when the state hits 80 per cent vaccination rates (pictured, punters in Bondi Beach)
Thousands of students have been called back into classrooms a week early, with Year 1 and Year 12 students to resume in-school learning on October 18 (pictured, students in Sydney)
Students will begin a staged return to school from October 11 to give teachers an extra week to get two jabs of a Covid vaccine (pictured, students at Homebush West Public School)
While the state lingers between the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rate, rules restricting bookings to 20 people will remain in place.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian teased a change to the cap on group bookings during her Covid press conference earlier on Wednesday.
‘It’s still important between 70 and 80 per cent to ensure that we prevent any virus spreading,’ she said.
‘Because between 70 and 80 per cent, we do still need to exercise caution.’
The premier used the logic that if a group of 20 people didn’t necessarily know the group next to them, there would be less mingling between the two.
Meanwhile, Year 1 and Year 12 students are now scheduled to return to campus on October 18 while Years 2, 6 and 11 will arrive the following week on October 25. All remaining year groups will return on November 1.
Only vaccinated teaching staff will be welcomed back into classrooms.
Several senior ministers considered bringing students back even earlier on October 11, the Daily Telegraph reported.
However it was ultimately agreed students would return seven days later to give their teachers another week to get vaccinated.
All teaching staff in NSW were originally mandated to get two doses of a Covid vaccine by November 8.
Last month, a Department of Education survey revealed almost 70 per cent of staff had received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 40 per cent double jabbed.
But one in ten workers said they were not booked in or planned to get immunised within the next month.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian hinted at an earlier return for students during her Covid press conference on Wednesday.
Ms Berejiklian said her government was ‘looking at options if we can bring things forward’ in relation to the original return date earmarked for October 25.
The state leader said there were considerations to be made on the number of teaching staff that were currently vaccinated across the state.
All teaching staff in NSW have been mandated to get two doses of a Covid vaccine by November 8 (pictured, a mother home schools her children in Wollongong in July)
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there were considerations to be made on the number of teachers currently vaccinated (pictured, students at the Strathfield Train Station)
‘Parents should assume it is October 25 and if there is better news than that, we will convey it,’ the premier said earlier on Wednesday.
‘I want to stress we are carefully considering the options we have to get kids to school earlier if we can.
‘We didn’t expect to have hit 70 per cent double dose on October 11 so we are considering what that does for the school system.’
Ms Berejiklian said ‘regrettably’ the return to classrooms would trigger the emergence of new cases.
She said the state government was still finalising the procedures that would follow an outbreak of infections in schools and when they would need to shut down.
‘We are going through those processes now and we will give the community good advice ahead of that,’ the state leader said.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the emphasis of the return to classrooms would be on the safety of students.
‘I recognise that there are a mix of views across the community on when the right time is for children to return to school,’ she said.
The minister said it was positive the state had hit vaccination targets early but it was imperative students could return to campuses in a ‘safe and sensible’ way.
‘We continue to review our school settings and plans, as we have done throughout the pandemic, in line with the latest health advice.’
There has been a strong vaccine uptake in NSW students in the 12 to 15 year group with 44 per cent having received one dose of a Covid vaccine.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has said the emphasis of the return to classrooms would be on the safety of students (pictured, school children in Bowral)
The earlier return to classrooms comes as welcome news to busy parents, as many plan to return to work on October 11 when the majority of the state will reopen (pictured, primary school children in Redfern)
In a webinar video seen by Daily Mail Australia, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education Georgina Harrison warned staff about the mandatory jab requirement.
‘It will mean under the public health order that they (teachers) are lawfully unable to work for us, and we will have to look at measures such as leave without pay until someone could get vaccinated, or possibly terminating their employment because it will be a requirement of employment,’ Ms Harrison said in August.
‘This is a really significant and serious step, it has not been taken lightly. Know that it has been taken on the very best health advice about what will protect our whole school community the best as we plan for return.’
Ms Berejiklian has reassured Year 12 students final HSC exams would be pushed back to November 9 – a day after mandatory vaccination is required for all staff on campuses.
NSW recorded 863 new local cases of Covid-19 and 15 deaths on Wednesday.