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After four brutal months in lockdown, NSW cautiously eyes freedom

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NSW will emerge from lockdown in a fortnight after almost four months of stay-at-home orders for large swathes of the state.

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday declared the beginning of the “COVID-normal” era from December, with the phasing out of statewide or region-wide lockdowns to begin within two weeks.

Socially distanced reintroductions to hospitality venues and hairdressers will likely begin from October 11, at 70 per cent full vaccination coverage.

About two weeks later, the state is expected to reach 80 per cent coverage and travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW will resume.

From October 25, gathering caps should increase to 10 fully vaccinated visitors in homes, 20 people outdoors, a maximum of 200 people for COVID-safe events and up to 500 people at ticketed and seated events.

Entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity, libraries and museums can reopen and community sport will resume. However nightclubs will remain closed.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says police won’t be routinely stopping people asking to see their vaccination passports but will be available to help business owners who refuse service to anyone.

“We will not be walking through restaurants and cafes and pubs checking if people are double vaccinated,” he told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

“We will certainly be assisting restaurant owners and shop owners if they are refusing entry to someone, we will certainly respond to assist those people … it’s important that we keep calm out there.”

From December 1, life will return to near normal for all NSW residents.

The “four square metre” social distancing rule reverts to two square metres and those who aren’t vaccinated can reintegrate with society.

Almost all remaining restrictions will ease at this point, including attendance caps on all gatherings, all business, office, hospitality and entertainment settings and weddings, funerals and religious services.

Berejiklian said she’d also like Sydney Airport to serve as a funnel for stranded Australians overseas to return home. NSW intends to increase arrival caps at 80 per cent and remove caps by December.

“Every state needs to do their bit for the country (and) our contribution in NSW will be to welcome home Australians if other state premiers aren’t inclined to do that,” Ms Berejiklian told ABC TV on Tuesday.

“We’ll make sure they get safely on a flight back to their home state and what happens after that is a matter for their state.

“If you’re fully vaccinated with a vaccine our authorities deem to be effective and safe, you’ll be able to quarantine at home.”

NSW businesses predominantly welcomed the planned freedoms from October and the end of uncertainty by December.

Business Council CEO Jennifer Westacott said ordering, rosters and more staff for the busy Christmas period could now be planned in advance.

NSW reported 787 new local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday. There are 1155 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 214 in intensive care units and 115 on ventilators.

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