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Australia Covid update: NSW records 961 new cases and Victoria 779 as Andrews eases some restrictions

·4-min read
<span>Composite: Getty</span>
Composite: Getty

Some Victorian restrictions will ease this week, as New South Wales prepares to announce new freedoms for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

From midnight on Tuesday, locked-down Victorians will have the radius they can travel within increased from 10km to 15km, and “contactless” outdoor activities including tennis and golf will be allowed.

Personal training can resume with up to five people and a trainer, as long as they are all fully vaccinated. In regional Victoria the cap on outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes will increase from 20 to 30 people, and masks can be removed in hairdressing and beauty salons for facials and beard trims.

Related: Leaked figures confirm fears of a drop in Australia’s supply of Pfizer vaccine

Lockdowns in the City of Greater Geelong and Surf Coast Shire will end at midnight on Sunday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the easing was possible because Victoria is set to meet a vaccination milestone, with 80% of residents having their first vaccine dose by Tuesday.

The announcement comes as two more people with Covid have died in Victoria, while 779 new locally acquired cases were reported. Andrews said the hospitalisation statistics very clearly showed that this was now a “pandemic in the unvaccinated”.

“That is not a point of criticism,” he said. “It is a point to motivate everyone to come forward and get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

He said the modest easing of restrictions were not “freedom day” and “not the end of lockdown”. “It may not look the same and be the same experience as before Covid. But I think people will be delighted to get back to those things they are passionate about.”

In NSW, premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government is close to finalising a roadmap out of restrictions for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

She said the final touches are being put on plans that will be released this week.

Related: Victoria Covid restrictions: Melbourne lockdown, curfew and regional Vic coronavirus rules explained

All leaders are grappling with how to deal with both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Berejiklian has previously said it was “uncharted territory”, and that the government would seek legal advice on how to go ahead.

On Sunday she said 85% of the population has received their first dose, and NSW is heading towards 70% of people with a double dose. By late October the coverage should be 80%, and the premier says she would love to see 90% in “the near future”. However, some communities are projected to have vaccination rates below 50% even when the state average hits 70%.

Another nine people have died in NSW, and the state recorded 961 new locally acquired cases.

After NSW hits the 80% target, unvaccinated people “will be able to participate in activities”, Berejiklian said.

“I do want to foreshadow that the NSW government is very close to finalising our roadmap for 80% double dose but also our roadmap as to when unvaccinated people will be able to participate in greater activity and we will be releasing that this week.

“So that is the information we are proving this week to make very clear when those key milestones will occur.”

Like Andrews, Berejiklian warned there would be no sudden lifting of restrictions.

“I don’t want to be a party pooper by saying there is no such day as freedom day, but our reopening and finding Covid normal will be a step-by-step process,” she said.

Related: NSW frontline medical staff gagged as health system braces for Covid peak

Prime minister Scott Morrison, who is in Washington DC, attacked Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and WA premier Mark McGowan for refusing to commit to opening their borders.

“There comes a time when you’ve got to honour the arrangement you’ve made with the Australian people, and that is when you get to 80% vaccination, it’s very clear that you can start opening up,” he said. “I think that puts the big challenge on the premiers … there comes a time when you just have to move on and get on with it.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he supports the national plan to reopen but that Morrison was blaming others for restrictions when they were “due to a failure of Scott Morrison’s leadership”.

“It’s about time that this prime minister delivered on his own commitments rather than consistently seeking not to show national leadership but to blame others,” he said.

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