Deputy Premier John Barilaro answers regional NSW COVID-19 questions

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro praised regional communities for their take up of vaccines in the last few weeks and said it was key to moving past lockdowns in the future.

But, he warned restrictions like wearing masks and caps on numbers in venues could stay for "a while yet".

Mr Barilaro also said an update about a mass vaccination hub opening in Goulburn or the NSW southern region was "very close" and the community would be updated this week on the details.

"We're still talking about [going back to] the freedoms we had before this outbreak, so caps on venue numbers and mask wearing. I've got a feeling we will have those restrictions for a while yet," he said.

"Vaccination rates in LGA's will be important in the future, but not at this stage of the cycle, where we look at testing and those other factors like sewage surveillance and exposure sites.

"When it comes to freedoms based on vaccination rates it won't happen until we reach that 70 per cent double dose which we've aimed to achieve by mid-October, and the 80 per cent double dose by mid-November."

Will HSC students who live in regional NSW be vaccinated? 

Mr Barilaro said while the government wants all year 12 students to be vaccinated, there was not enough supply of Pfizer for whole state's age group yet.

"The focus right now is students in those 12 LGAs who have eligibility for Pfizer," he said.

"As we get more supply of Pfizer and we lift the access to certain age groups, then more will be distributed but it needs to meet supply and demand.

"On Thursday we will have a clearer picture of what is happening with the return of schools in regional areas which will align with what restrictions can be lifted."


What is the vaccination strategy for under-12's? 

Currently there are no jurisdictions in the world who have begun vaccinating children under-12-years old, but Mr Barilaro said the Department of Education was working on advice for safely reopening schools.

"Right now the focus is on the ones we can vaccinate and those are the teachers," he said.

"The approach needs to minimise risk while the rest of society moves on, so that will include COVID-Safe plans for schools, possibly smaller numbers in rooms, reduced extra curriculars and other measures.

"We need ATAGI advice in relation to vaccinations for 5- to 12-year olds, but when we receive it I'm confident a lot of parents will bring their children forward."

INSERT: NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro

INSERT: NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro

Will local government elections go ahead in December? 

Mr Barilaro said he was "almost 100 per cent certain" elections for local governments would go ahead on December 4.

"We're still confident they will go ahead, because if you look at projections we should be at 70 per cent fully vaccinated by mid-October and 80 percent mid-November and that will allow a level of easing of restrictions," he said.

"There are always contingency plans because we don't know what COVID will do and there's always curveballs, but I can say I am almost 100 per cent certain, December 4 will be local government elections."

Any clues for what eased restrictions will look like for regional NSW?

Mr Barilaro said he was happy with an LGA approach in which places with no cases, where sewage surveillance was negative and did not border LGAs of concern would be considered for eased restrictions.

"We will have a look at the data in crisis cabinet [on Wednesday] and take the health advice," he said.

"I'm comfortable with the LGA approach and looking at low risk versus high risk areas."

But Mr Barilaro said he was not comfortable with "locking out" certain LGAs from others.

"Up to this point, no consideration has been given to locking out Dubbo, Wilcannia or other areas of high concern from the rest of the state," he said.

"I'm not comfortable with that approach but it will all be considered at tomorrow's crisis cabinet meeting."

Should organisers for events in early-2022 move forward planning with confidence? 

In good news, event organisers should "absolutely" be planning for their events to be held in January 2022, Mr Barilaro said.

"We believe 80 per cent double vaccinated will give us a level of freedom we had before this Delta outbreak," he said.

"I'd absolutely be planning for [an event like] the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January next year because we will be learning to live with COVID at that stage."

This story Pre-lockdown restrictions to stay for 'a while yet' warns NSW Deputy Premier first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.