State premier Gladys Berejiklian has made no secret that lockdown rules will only be eased for fully vaccinated people once the state hits its 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination targets. However, as the NSW government unveiled the next part of the ‘roadmap to freedom’, which will be triggered once 80 per cent of adults over the age of 16 have been double jabbed, the premier said that unvaccinated people would need to wait several weeks longer, until December 1.
Those deliberately dodging the jab will be unable to access sporting events, regional travel and mass public gatherings like theatre productions, live gigs and festivals until that date, although they will be allowed to attend places of worship once the 80 per cent target is reached. Since the Delta outbreak plunged NSW into lockdown in late June, the state has used the promise of freedoms for the vaccinated as a way to leverage higher levels of inoculation, and this tactic has seemingly worked remarkably well, with 85.5 per cent of adults over the age of 16 having now received at least one dose of a vaccine. However, while the federal government's four-phase plan to exit the pandemic suggests 80 per cent as sufficiently high levels of vaccination to retire lockdowns altogether, this would still leave 1.6 million people unvaccinated in NSW, which could easily overwhelm the state's hospital system if the Delta variant was allowed to rip through the unprotected population unchecked. In countries like Singapore, which has more than 80 per cent of its adult population vaccinated, tightened social restrictions have been reintroduced to protect the less than 20 per cent of its population that are still vulnerable to infection.
NSW is leading the country currently in its vaccination rollout, with 60 per cent of the adult population now fully vaccinated. At current rates of vaccination, the state should reach the 70 per cent target needed to begin easing lockdown rules by October 6. To ensure only vaccinated people take advantage of the post-lockdown freedoms, the NSW government is preparing to release a vaccination passport, which will be attached to the Service NSW app, required for checking in to a venue. However, due to the state’s rapid vaccine uptake, this technology is unlikely to be ready by the time NSW begins to open up, leaving gyms, retail businesses and hospitality venues to enforce the rule without access to credible records of vaccination status.
While not unanimous, the majority of the crisis cabinet and the state's health experts have advocated for "higher saturation points" of vaccination before retiring the need for vaccine passports and QR check-ins. Customer services minister Victor Dominello suggested this could be achievable by Christmas. "Notwithstanding that these are my babies," Dominello said of the vaccine passport technologies he is currently overseeing, "I will be the first to turn them off... They are only to be used in pandemic situations."