image sourceEPAimage captionNew South Wales will begin to exit lockdown when 70% of adults are vaccinated
Australia's biggest city Sydney is likely to ease out of lockdown from next month, provided a vaccination threshold is reached.
The New South Wales (NSW) state capital has been in lockdown since July due to a Delta variant outbreak.
The state government released its much-anticipated "roadmap to freedom" on Thursday.
It sets out new freedoms for people once 70% of adults in the state have had two vaccine doses.
NSW recorded over 1,400 new infections on Thursday, another daily record. Its outbreak has claimed 153 lives.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stressed people must adjust to having the virus in the community once a majority of society is vaccinated.
She declined to nominate a date for reopening but said it would occur on the first Monday after reaching the 70% target.
Nearly 43% of her state's adults are fully vaccinated and 75% have had a first dose, meaning the threshold is likely to be reached next month.
At that point, shops and restaurants will be able to reopen with customer limits. Ms Berejiklian did name a date for reopening schools – 25 October.
She said only fully vaccinated people would have access to other privileges:
- Five visitors allowed in a home
- 20-person outdoor gatherings
- Travel around the state
Subject to distancing restrictions, the following venues will also reopen:
- Restaurants, cafes and bars
- Retail stores
- Gyms, indoor recreation centres and sporting facilities
- Hairdressers, nail salons
- Cinemas, galleries, theatres, museums
- Churches and places of worship – no singing allowed
- Stadiums, racecourses, theme parks
There will be a 500-person limit at outdoor seated events, and 50-person limit at weddings and funerals.
It's not yet clear how people will prove their vaccination status, but there has been discussion of a vaccination passport or app.
The NSW proposal follows a national plan for all of Australia to reopen at 70% and 80% vaccination levels.
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Currently, more than half of Australia's 25 million people are under lockdown – there are also outbreaks in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.
But Covid-free states like Queensland and Western Australia have rebuffed plans to "live with the virus" in the near future, arguing the vaccination threshold should be higher.
NSW leads the other states in vaccination rates. Nationally, 64% of adults have had at least one dose.
Australia has increased its overall vaccine supply to about 10 million doses a week after scrambling to secure Pfizer vaccines from other nations.
It recently announced swap deals with the UK, Singapore and Poland.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government has been criticised for failing to secure more Pfizer doses early on, instead relying heavily on its AstraZeneca supplies.
Emails released this week by the Labor opposition showed the government had failed to negotiate a Pfizer contract before other Western countries, and had waited to be contacted by the company.