Discussions Are Underway To Scrap the December 1 Opening for the Unvaxxinated in NSW
By Sydney National Review
The NSW government is considering pushing back the reopening date for unvaccinated people in a bid to boost the state’s inoculation coverage, with senior ministers now eyeing a potential double-dose rate of 95 per cent.
While freedoms for unvaccinated people may be postponed, the government will also consider moving forward some aspects of the road map that were originally slated for December 1, according to a senior minister.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has previously indicated her ambition for a first dose rate above the 95 per cent mark to protect the most vulnerable against the virus.
Regional travel is set to reopen for Sydneysiders from November 1, which Premier Dominic Perrottet said was the right time, having moved back the date from the 80 per cent vaccination threshold earlier this month.
The state is sitting at a first dose rate of 93.5 per cent and 87 per cent are double-dosed. In 12-15-year-olds, 79 per cent have had their first dose, and 58.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The delay of regional travel was an “unpopular decision for many people in Sydney, but it was the right decision for regional NSW,” Mr Perrottet said.
“I believe we got that right because we are seeing an increase in cases in certain areas, particularly down in Albury at the moment, that’s a concern as well because we’re also going to be opening up the Victorian border.
Mr Perrottet said the government made the decision after considering health advice and consulting Nationals MPs.
“We looked at the confidence numbers in regional NSW because their vaccination rates were lower, it was clear that their confidence was lower as well,” he said. “Sydney’s confidence was incredibly high but there were still concerns in various parts of regional NSW in relation to lower vaccination rates.”
Cases in regional NSW continue to outstrip those in the city, with 54 cases recorded on Friday in the Hunter New England area and 52 in Murrumbidgee including 48 in the border town of Albury which has seen a continued spike in cases in recent days. In comparison, south-west Sydney recorded 41 cases and western Sydney 21.
A rapid antigen test trial will be rolled out in hard-hit Albury in southern NSW from next week, where almost every school has been forced to shut due to a COVID-19 case in the past two weeks. Some have been shut twice. Across NSW, more than 40 schools have shut this week.
NSW has hit its vaccination targets ahead of schedule, with five local government areas in NSW hitting 95 per cent full vaccination of people aged over 16, including Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, the Hills Shire, Camden, and Murray River in the state’s south.
But daily average first dose rates have slowed considerably since the state hit 90 per cent, with NSW now recording about 11,500 first jabs daily, down from a peak in August of about 59,000. This week that number has fallen further.
Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said NSW is likely to reach 90 per cent double-dose within a “week or two”, however the 95 per cent target was more difficult to predict.
“Vaccinations will really start to taper now but have trickle on effect for some time yet,” Professor Bennett said. “Some people who are infected will wait for up to six months to get their first dose.”
“How far above 95 per cent double-dose in NSW we get is yet to be seen. It may take another month or two to reach that 95 per cent two-dose coverage.”
NSW reported 268 new local cases of COVID-19 and two deaths on Friday.