World

Covid restrictions in Sydney may be eased a week earlier

The city is expected to hit 80 per cent vaccination target over the weekend, beating forecasts

SYDNEY : New South Wales (NSW) could ease more restrictions in Sydney a week earlier than planned on Oct 18 as Australia's most populous state races towards its 80 per cent double-dose vaccination target, the government said yesterday.

The south-eastern state is expected to hit the mark over the weekend, beating forecasts, and officials previously promised to relax further restrictions on vaccinated residents on the first Monday after reaching that milestone.

"If we hit 80 per cent, we have always said it will be the Monday following," state Premier Dominic Perrottet told ABC Radio.

"We will have this discussion with our team on Thursday, and we will make a decision to be announced on Friday."

Retail stores, pubs and gyms can allow more vaccinated patrons when inoculation reaches 80 per cent.

Mandatory masks will not be required inside offices, and nightclubs can reopen for seated drinking, while weddings can have unlimited guests.

Sydney's more than five million residents came out of a nearly four-month lockdown on Monday after the 70 per cent vaccination target was reached, with state officials promising a phased easing of remaining restrictions after vaccination rates reach 80 per cent and 90 per cent.

WARNINGS

The NSW government has warned infections will increase with reopening but has brushed aside warnings from some health experts that hospitals could be overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases under Mr Perrottet's strategy of living with the virus.

Daily infections in New South Wales rose to 444 yesterday, up from 360 a day earlier but well down from the pandemic high of 1,599 in early September.

Canberra's 400,000 residents will exit lockdown tomorrow as the first-dose vaccination rate topped 95 per cent, one of the highest among Australia's regional capitals.

Victoria, which includes Melbourne, suffered the deadliest day of the Delta outbreak yesterday with 13 deaths. It reported 1,571 new infections, up from 1,466 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, shop workers, tourist guides and barbers are among dozens of groups who must get Covid-19 shots to work in Australia's Northern Territory, officials announced yesterday, unveiling one of the world's most far-reaching vaccine mandates.

Expressing concern at low jab rates in some communities, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced that "anyone serving the public at work will have to be vaccinated".

The vast territory stretches from tropical Darwin on the Timor Sea to the dusty Outback settlements of Alice Springs and Uluru - an area three times the size of Spain. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD