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Freedoms for Sydney’s vaccinated – but millions may miss out

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Almost half of Sydney’s population could miss out on COVID-19 vaccine incentives long-promised to be doled out when the state reached six million doses.

After announcing 753 new local virus cases on Tuesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian again told fully vaccinated NSW residents they would have “at least one” freedom restored by week’s end.

But – even though she was asked twice – Ms Berejiklian did not say whether people in the 12 local government areas of concern would be granted any extra freedoms with the rest of Sydney.

“We’re having those conversations now,” she said.

At least 2.5 million people in the areas of concern – which include Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Canterbury-Bankstown, Campbelltown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield, and some suburbs of Penrith – are already under a stricter lockdown than other NSW residents.

Residents are subject to a curfew, most cannot leave their LGA for work, and cannot leave their homes for outdoor recreation.

NSW hit its target of six million COVID vaccine doses on Tuesday. Across the state, 60 per cent of people have had one shot, while , with two million are fully vaccinated.

“We’re not exaggerating when we say NSW has – if not the highest – one of the highest vaccination rates now in the world in terms of how quickly people are getting vaccinated,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“That’s something we can be proud of and something that we believe will give us extra protection.”

Many Sydney residents are eyeing “at least one” extra freedom from this coming weekend.

She has repeatedly refused to outline how Sydney’s tough virus rules will be relaxed, promising only an announcement by the end of the week. A formal announcement is expected on Thursday or Friday.

Blacktown has been flagged as one of the best-performers for vaccination in recent weeks.

“We’ve seen Blacktown go from one of the lowest rates of vaccination to the highest in the state,” Ms Berejiklian said.

But the number of doses given has surged across all 12 hotspot LGAs.

“What we’ve seen really in a pleasing way is it’s the 12 local government areas of concern and all the suburbs within them have some of the highest rates of vaccination,” she said.

Despite that, it is yet to have a big impact on transmission, especially in Sydney. Tuesday was the first day with fewer than 800 new infections since last Friday.

There were no new fatalities to report.

Chief health officer Kerry Chant said the situation across the state was “very, very complex”.

“It takes at least two to three weeks for vaccines to work,” she said.

“This big push in south-west Sydney, we’re not expecting to see the impact of that until mid-September.

“We are working this through in a very considered way, recognising the fact the community has been doing the hard yards.”

Dr Chant also flagged some restrictions were likely to remain even when NSW reached 80 per cent double dose vaccinations.

“It may be that we actually have indoor mask-wearing for years in certain settings,” she said.

“We may have factors where you’re only permitted to go to certain high-risk venues if you’re vaccinated and show proof of vaccination.

“The world is grappling with how we co-exist with COVID and the virus may throw us curve balls.

“We’ve got the Delta variant, God help us if we have another variant.”

Also on Tuesday, NSW Health announced a competition between different sporting codes to see which one can get the most jabs.

People from the 12 LGAs of concern who get vaccinated this coming Sunday have been urged to wear the colours of their favourite sport team and take a selfie.

-with AAP



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