Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

New South Wales has registered 496 new ones COVID-19 cases and eight new deaths as the state emerges from lockdown to ‘Freedom Day’.

This is the first time the state has registered less than 500 locally acquired cases in months.

Today’s daily COVID-19 statistics show that 90.3 percent of people aged 16 and over have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, 73.5 percent of people aged 16 and over have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has predicted an increase in COVID-19 case numbers as the state celebrates Freedom Day but said the easing of restrictions today was ‘low risk’.

“There is no doubt that opening cases will increase, but the key to opening has certainly been our vaccination rate, and every single person throughout our state has made a tremendous effort here,” Perrottet told Today.

Perrottet pointed out that the state reached a 90 percent single-dose vaccination rate over the weekend as a significant milestone.

“The change we have made is low risk, yes, the number of cases will increase, admissions too, but we have invested significant amounts in our healthcare system,” the prime minister said.

“We have to open up, we have to live with the virus. There is no alternative to doing that.”

After several months of lockdown, today is the day NSW finally emerges from its COVID-19 cocoon, with shops, restaurants, pubs and gyms among the businesses opening up – but only for the fully vaccinated.
Hotel manager Alex Marton prepares a bar area before receiving patrons at the Kings Cross Hotel in Sydney's south-east.
Hotel manager Alex Marton prepares a bar area before receiving patrons at the Kings Cross Hotel in Sydney’s south-east. (Getty)
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said officers were ready to help small businesses enforce vaccination requirements.

Highway patrol officers would also be out of force and ensure Greater Sydney residents do not break the rules and try to enter regional NSW, Commissioner Fuller said today.

While large pubs, clubs and restaurants were well accustomed to screening customers, it was the small businesses Commissioner Fuller said he was concerned about.

Many people just could not wait to be allowed to shop in person again when the store opened at midnight.
Many people just could not wait to be allowed to shop in person again when the store opened at midnight. (Nine)

“Unfortunately, we are prepared for dramas,” said Commissioner Fuller.

“We are especially confident that we are available to respond to the smaller mothers and fathers type of companies.”

“Companies have the right to deny people access. We know pubs and clubs have done well in terms of dress codes or intoxication, and if there is a problem, they call us.

“I want the police to respond to services for companies that are struggling with individuals.

“If people are kind to each other in the coming week, we’ll get through this together.”

Commissioner Fuller said police would help companies when they had problems with individual customers.

The Commissioner asked people to continue to follow the rules in the midst of the tension at Freedom Day.

“We can get back to normal life if we follow the health order,” he said. The challenge, of course, will be if everyone violates the health ordinances, then our numbers will rise again and you will see our hospital systems under pressure.

“Although I understand on the one hand that people are ready to come back to life as normal, the virus is still in our society.”

Commissioner Fuller said he was frustrated and disappointed to again see crowds at Sydney beaches breaking COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend, of which Manly, Bondi and Cronulla were the three worst places.

“In terms of tolerating illegal behavior, if people think it’s the new norm, they’ll get a shock,” he said.

Highway patrols, armed with license plate recognition technology, would monitor highways this week and ensure that people who were sick of lockdown did not try to enter regional NSW for a holiday.

“I do not want society to misunderstand my message,” he said.

Joel Baur owns Vision Personal Training in Pyrmont, Sydney with this morning's first client training in the studio.  People who are fully vaccinated can now work out indoors in a gym.

‘Freedom Day’ in photos: Drinks, haircuts and shopping

“We will still take action against beach wrestlers.”

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