“We have the highest vaccination rate in the country and most importantly we are getting close to the first dose mark to 90 percent,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Saturday.
The prime minister said the state could expect to see daily case numbers and hospital admissions rise as Greater Sydney comes out of lockdown on Monday, urging people to continue safely.
“It is a natural part of opening up and therefore we have done this in a safe way and ensured that we have not done it until we have had the vaccination rates where we wanted it,” he said.
“This journey is not over. There is a long way to go and we must continue that focus.”
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, who attended the press conference with the prime minister on Saturday, said it was up to individuals to be aware of the risks in society.
“Everyone when we move to live with COVID must also abide by the personal responsibility around vaccination, including physical distancing, do not go out and walk on if you have symptoms of COVID,” she said.
“This is very much a shared responsibility.”
She also addressed reports that she did not agree with the faster easing of restrictions announced this week, saying she had the opportunity to brief prime ministers and “respected government decisions around more input”.
“I would also like to note that some of the changes clearly have a very low risk,” she said.
Investigations are also underway into a new “strain” of the Delta variant, linked to a person who returned from abroad.
Dr Chant said how the new tribe originated and infiltrated the community of western Sydney is still under investigation.
“I want to assure you that there is nothing about this Delta strain from looking at the genomics that suggested it was more transferable,” she said.
There are currently 812 COVID-19 cases in the hospital, with 163 in intensive care and 75 requiring ventilation.
The state on Wednesday obtained 70 percent double-dose vaccination coverage from those over 16, clearing the way for restrictions to ease as planned.
As of Monday, a number of restrictions are lifting for fully vaccinated people across the state.
Ten adult visitors are allowed to live in the home, 30 people are allowed to gather outdoors, and 100 guests can gather at weddings and funerals.
Shops and hospitality venues may reopen and the five-mile limit from the home will be scrapped.
But as the first Australian state to reach 70 per cent vaccination, NSW will also be the first to face some challenges, the prime minister said.
The United Workers’ Union, which represents many front-line and public-facing workers, is concerned that members are checking vaccination status in precarious situations.
Adding to their concern is that the integrated Service NSW Vaccination Certificate or Passport app is not yet ready.
Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association said changes to the state’s plan to get out of the lockdown could overwhelm the hospital system and burn out healthcare professionals.