Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Lopping the COVID locks, a liberty worth guarding

Mark Speakman at Studio Shire on Monday with owner Sylvana Manno.

Mark Speakman at Studio Shire on Monday with owner Sylvana Manno.

The Shire, and most of Sydney, woke to grey skies on Monday morning but our state stepped into a new golden dawn. Freedoms restricted for over 100 days started to return.

The first agenda item for many is to attend to those long and unkempt lockdown locks. Our hairdressers are ready to wield the scissors, clippers and foils to bring those distressed tresses back under control. Including mine.

I was fortunate to join our Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope at Sylvana Manno's Studio Shire in Caringbah to recognise the beginning of the end of lockdown restrictions.

Hairdressers are just one category of business bouncing back after this difficult period. Coffee shops, cafes, pubs and clubs are ready to welcome COVID-safe diners and revellers back.

Fully vaxxed couples can now wed in the presence of 100 of their nearest and dearest, and even dance. Families and loved ones can gather in identical numbers to farewell their beloved departed. You can have friends over to your house, or gather with them outdoors in greater numbers.

The people of the Shire and of all NSW deserve the highest praise for getting us to more than 70 per cent fully vaccinated a week ahead of the estimate. Just around the corner, 80 per cent is waiting with the further opening up that milestone will bring.

It wasn't easy getting here. Many have struggled with the restrictions, with the job losses and reductions in working hours it's brought, along with loneliness and other mental health impacts. That's why we have to guard these newly returned freedoms with vigilance.

Please respect the remaining restrictions. They're in place for our safety. If you're not yet vaccinated, I urge you to do so. Being vaccinated or not may be a "personal choice" - but the choice can have direct health impacts on others and the entire community.

The vaccinated protect themselves and everyone they encounter. The personal choice not to be vaccinated is a choice to live with more risk of catching COVID and more risk of infecting loved ones. For still vulnerable people, like the elderly or immunocompromised, that infection could mean death.

1 December will bring more freedoms still. To be truly free, let's hope by then that NSW will be leading the world and well on its way to 100 per cent fully vaccinated, and so consigning COVID-19 and the lockdowns that it brings to history.