The residents of Muswellbrook reacted with surprise and cautious optimism to the announcement they had been released from stay-at-home orders along with 12 other LGAs across NSW.
Upper Hunter MLA Dave Layzell welcomed the news after earlier calling for restrictions to be eased in the Muswellbrook, Dungog, Singleton and Upper Hunter Shire council areas, but warned people to remain vigilant. "Before you go and plan a party ... we need to remember it will only take a single community transmission for us all to go back into a 14-day lockdown," he said.
Fiona Plesman, the general manager of Muswellbrook Shire Council said the council was excited by the announcement and immediate planning was underway to ensure some council services could return in full by Monday.
"I do urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as they can and to be mindful of the restrictions still in place," Ms Plesman said.
At the town's shopping centre, the car park began to fill quickly after 1pm, with a queue forming at the newly reopened barber shop and Big W.
Many smaller retailers remained closed, however, unable to reopen on such short notice.
In the centre of town, the manager of Cattle Dog Cafe & Florist Krystal Garland said the announcement lockdown had been lifted took her staff by surprise.
"We had a couple of regulars drop in who told us that the lockdown had been lifted," she said. "So we thought, well we better start getting the flowers out!"
Ms Garland said reopening the cafe for sit-down service was a strange feeling after five weeks operating for takeaway only.
"It was a weird feeling having our first sit-down customer this afternoon and I was joking with the staff that our customer service will need a bit of improvement after all this time.
"But we're preparing for a full day of business tomorrow which we're all very excited about."
At the Railway Hotel on Market Street, several regulars arrived for a beer within minutes of reopening.
Hotel owner Greg Smith was in a jovial mood, pouring beers and greeting customers after a long time between drinks.
"It's just good to be open after five weeks and hopefully this is the end of it," Mr Smith said.
At the nearby Royal Hotel mine workers soon arrived for after work drinks, with every table in the restaurant reserved for the dinner service.
Residents are hopeful this is the end of stay-at-home orders for the region, but remain keenly aware it will only take one case to undo the region's reopening.
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