After 106 days of lockdown, stay-at-home orders in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), and its capital Sydney will be lifted for the fully vaccinated while the unvaccinated are “locked out” from receiving the same “freedoms.”
Premier Dominic Perrottet acknowledged that there would be challenges and difficulties while the state eases restrictions, and asked the public for patience, kindness, and respect.
“We’re the first state in the country that’s got this system in place as we open up,” Perrottet told Sunrise. “There will be challenges here as we work through it, but I think everybody across the state right now is pretty excited for what’s been a long 100 days.”
With the single-dose vaccination rate at 90 percent and double-dose at 73.5 percent, the premier said there was no need to “go backwards” into more blanket lockdowns if a future outbreak occurs.
“We followed the federal government’s national plan and that means, at times, there may be the need for targeted restrictions in certain places,” Perrottet said. “But in terms of state-wide lockdowns, I think they will be a thing of the past … We’ve got to learn to live alongside the virus; vaccination rates are key.”
However, the state’s “Freedom Day” is being celebrated by just a segment of the population, leaving out people who are unvaccinated or have only received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.
John Ruddick, the Liberal Democrats NSW senate candidate, said it was “Orwellian” to refer to Oct. 11 as Freedom Day.
“If someone hasn’t had their COVID vaccine by now then let’s just leave them be. Do we really want the state to manipulate citizens into doing something that rightly or wrongly they are anxious about?” Ruddick said. “There is a sense that some want to punish these people.”
While the fully vaccinated can hold outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people, others will only be allowed to gather with one other person or their household.
People who are not fully vaccinated also continue to be “locked out” from attending outdoor events, visiting the gym, and sitting down at a restaurant—activities the fully vaccinated are now allowed to do.
Some businesses are opposed to the emergence of a two-tiered society, where all customers will be required to display their vaccination status to enter the premises.
Rami Ykmour, the co-founder of the Rashays restaurant chain, has declared that his stores would remain closed, except for takeaway services, until the restrictions are lifted for everybody on Dec. 1.
“I’m happy for small businesses that can open up on Oct. 11, including Rashays, but unfortunately, we’ve taken a stance,” Ykmour said. “Rashays is taking a stance not to open up until Dec. 1 because we are all about being inclusive.”
A group on Facebook called “Jobs Without Jabs Australia” has over 62,000 members and seeks to connect employers and employees regardless of vaccination status.
“Freedom of choice without medical coercion. A free Australia for all, not a two-tiered society,” the group’s description reads.
Meanwhile, people in regional and rural NSW who have received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccination will be allowed to return to work but must receive their second dose by Nov. 1.