New South Wales is facing a spread of Covid-19 to regional areas even as the premier floats opening up new industries such as hairdressing some time in the future, provided clients and service providers are vaccinated.
There are fears about a possible spread at Byron Bay – an area with low levels of vaccination – after a man travelled from Sydney at the end of July and was infectious in the community. His close contacts are being tested and authorities are urgently seeking details of venues he visited.
NSW Health said: “As a precaution, everybody who is in the following local government areas should immediately isolate and have a Covid-19 test if they have even the mildest of symptoms: Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Tweed, Lismore, Kyogle and Ballina.”
Tamworth is being placed in lockdown from 5pm Monday after a woman travelled from Newcastle and visited a number of venues. Armidale and Newcastle are already in lockdown as a result of breakouts, and subject to the same stay-at-home rules as Greater Sydney.
The Penrith local government area has been added to the hotspot LGAs in Sydney subject to tighter rules.
NSW recorded 283 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19.
Sixty-four cases were infectious in the community, 42 were in isolation for part of their infectious period and the isolation status of 71 remains under investigation.
The case numbers are expected to bounce up again during the week, after NSW set a testing record of 133,000 tests on Sunday. The cases are still clustered in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, which has 58, but Penrith recorded 29 cases.
Despite the continued high numbers of cases in the community while infectious, premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW did not need a stay-home payment for people awaiting test results, similar to the $450 the Victorian government instituted during its long lockdown when it was battling to get people to stay home.
She said such payments were not needed because of the commonwealth disaster payment, even though these payments are not available to people who are still working.
There also appeared to be different messages from the premier and her chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, who said: “I think the numbers speak for themselves – we are still seeing quite a number of people infectious in the community. We need to all play our part in decreasing our mobility and stay the course.”
But the premier has again floated the idea of opening up some businesses, possibly in some parts of the city where there are low case numbers, such as hairdressing and other one-on-one personal services, potentially as early as September.
Construction workers from the eight hotspot LGAs will be allowed to return to work at building sites in those LGAs from Wednesday if they are fully vaccinated.
Berejiklian said: “Please think about the future if you work in an industry where you’d like to go back to serving customers or having one service to people or you work in a workplace which is currently not open – please consider getting vaccinated.
“Because the higher the rates of vaccination, the more confidence we’ll have to ease restrictions and open things up.”
Exactly how the scheme would work is not clear, but would likely require some proof of vaccination by customers and workers.
The government has been providing special vaccination days for groups of essential workers, such as supermarket workers, but the premier hinted of further returns of industries after August, when the current lockdown is due to end.
Berejiklian again repeated her target of 6m jabs by the end of the month. She again said it would depend on declining case numbers, but that she was not sure that would occur.
“The New South Wales government is committed to respecting the national cabinet’s wishes in relation to the Doherty report. We’re not intending to overstep our mark beyond what that report allows all the states to do. That report obviously allows certain freedoms at 70% vaccination, at 80% vaccination.”
But Berejiklian also said: “Please know that once we hit 50 to 60, lockdown plus easing some restrictions is very different to what the Doherty report says must happen at 70%.
“I’m sure if you asked the majority of people in our state ‘would you look forward to more freedoms than we have now?’, I think the answer would be yes.”