Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the Hunter has zero chance of coming out of lockdown until the state reaches its first vaccination target of 70 per cent in October.
The NSW government announced on Thursday that local government areas on the north coast and the Riverina region would be freed from stay-at-home restrictions at midnight on Friday.
The government will reassess lockdowns in other local government areas week-to-week. If they have no COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days, they may escape.
The Hunter recorded 12 new cases on Thursday, nine of them infectious in the community, and has had only one virus-free day since August 5.
Mr Barilaro said the Hunter community should plan around staying locked down for another five or six weeks.
"The number of cases you've already got in that community, I mean, every day we go into the Hunter region, four today in Port Stephens, four in Newcastle, three in Lake Macquarie ...," he said.
"The reality is I can't see Newcastle or the Hunter coming out of lockdown. Full stop. I don't think it's difficult to say that.
"If I was a business in that region, the reality now is that with the continued cases, you add the 14 days, are we going to get out of lockdown? The answer would be absolutely no."
Every Hunter LGA, Central Coast and MidCoast will stay in lockdown. Muswellbrook and Singleton were poised to escape until an Upper Hunter mineworker from Dungog tested positive on Tuesday.
Mr Barilaro said the list of exposure sites linked to the case was expected to grow.
"For Muswellbrook and Singleton, it's almost on the eve that that scenario changed," he said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian released on Thursday the government's "road map" for reopening pubs, restaurants, shops, theatres, salons, gyms and regional travel to fully vaccinated people.
At existing vaccination rates, the state will reach its target of 70 per cent adult double-dose vaccination on October 20 and start the phased reopening on Monday, October 25.
Hunter Business chief executive Bob Hawes predicted the rules would create tension between business owners and the unvaccinated.
"As we're seeing with people now still breaking down after being asked for a QR code or to wear a mask, this is just another extension of an opportunity for people to do the wrong thing," he said.
But Mr Hawes said the government's announcement would at least give businesses more certainty.
"We now know that the longest our region should have to wait is mid-October, so businesses can start ordering, staffing and reconnecting with their loyal customers and plan for open or expanded services from that date," he said.
NSW reported 1405 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and five COVID deaths on Thursday.
More than 75 per cent of people aged 16 and over in NSW have received one vaccine dose and 42 per cent have had both, but Ms Berejiklian said the vaccination rate had slowed.
"You have been warned," she said in reference to unvaccinated people being denied freedoms when the state started reopening.
Four cases in Nelson Bay reported on Thursday were infectious in the community and unlinked to a known source of infection.
Two cases in Adamstown Heights were isolating while infectious, one in North Lambton was infectious in the community and linked to a workplace, and one unlinked case in Kotara was infectious in the community.
One case in Catherine Hill Bay was isolating while infectious and linked to a household contact.
A case in Dora Creek was infectious in the community and linked to a community member.
An unlinked case in Woodrising was infectious in the community.
One case in Heddon Greta was infectious in the community and linked to the Upper Hunter mine.
The full list of LGAs to stay in lockdown is:
- Broken Hill
- Central Coast
- Central Darling
- Goulburn Mulwarre
- Lake Macquarie
- Port Stephens
- Snowy Monaro
- Upper Hunter
The rest of the state will escape from stay-at-home orders at midnight on Friday under the following restrictions:
Up to five visitors will be allowed in a home (not including children 12 and under).
Up to 20 people can gather in outdoor settings.
Hospitality, retail and gyms
Hospitality venues can reopen subject to one person per 4sqm inside and one person per 2sqm outside, with standing while drinking permitted outside.
Retail stores can reopen under the one person per 4sqm rule.
Personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons can open with one person per 4sqm, capped at five clients per premises.
Gyms and indoor recreation facilities can open under the one person per 4sqm rule and can offer classes for up to 20 people.
Sporting facilities including swimming pools can reopen.
Schools will reopen with Level 3 COVIDSafe measures in place.
Stadiums, theatres, outdoor recreation facilities
Major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can reopen with one person per 4sqm, capped at 5,000 people.
Up to 500 people can attend ticketed and seated outdoor events.
Indoor entertainment and information facilities including cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen with one person per 4sqm or 75 per cent fixed seated capacity.
Weddings, funerals, places of worship
Up to 50 guests can attend weddings, with dancing permitted and eating and drinking only while seated.
Up to 50 guests can attend funerals, with eating and drinking while seated.
Churches and places of worship to open subject to one person per 4sqm rule, with no singing.
Caravan parks and camping grounds can open.
Car pooling will be permitted.
Masks will remain mandatory for all indoor public venues, including public transport, front-of-house hospitality, retail and business premises, on planes and at airports.
Only hospitality staff will be required to wear a mask when outdoors.
Children aged under 12 will not need to wear a mask indoors.
NSW hospitals are treating 1175 COVID-19 cases, including 202 people in intensive care, 80 of whom require ventilation.
The COVID-related deaths reported on Thursday included:
- A man in his 80s from north-western Sydney died at Nepean Hospital.
- A woman in her 70s from western Sydney died at Ryde Hospital.
- A woman in her 70s from western Sydney died at Concord Repatriation General Hospital.
- A man in his 80s from south-western Sydney died at Westmead Hospital.
- A woman in her 40s from south-western Sydney, died at Liverpool Hospital.
Of the locally acquired cases reported to 8pm last night:
- 450 are from South Western Sydney Local Health District (LHD)
- 394 are from Western Sydney LHD
- 211 are from Sydney LHD
- 118 are from South Eastern Sydney LHD
- 74 are from Nepean Blue Mountains LHD
- 34 are from Northern Sydney LHD
- 24 are from Western NSW LHD
- 22 are from Central Coast LHD
- 23 are from Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD
- 12 are from Hunter New England LHD
- four are from Far West LHD
- three are from Southern NSW LHD
- nine are in correctional settings
- 27 are yet to be assigned to an LHD.
NSW Health's ongoing sewage surveillance program has recently detected viral fragments at the Tamworth, Glen Innes, Lightning Ridge, Culburra Beach and Moruya treatment plants.
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