The Australian state of New South Wales reopened days before the Northern Territory announced a sizable fine for unvaccinated workers.
New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reopened this week after almost four months of lockdown. Nearly 75% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. The NSW government intends to have 80% of its qualifying population vaccinated by late October
“I see it as a day of freedom, it’s a freedom day,” State Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters on Oct. 9. “We are leading the nation out of this pandemic but this will be a challenge.”
He added that the infection rate may rise following the state’s reopening.
Retail stores can open with reduced capacity and an increased number of vaccinated people can gather in homes or attend weddings and funerals.
Unvaccinated people are still required to stay home until Dec. 1.
“Australia shut its international borders in March 2020, helping keep its coronavirus numbers relatively low, with 130,000 cases and 1,448 deaths,” per CNBC.
In another significant change, NSW announced fully vaccinated international travelers will not be required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks upon arrival.
In his announcement on Oct. 15, Perrottet said, “We can’t live here in a hermit kingdom. We’ve got to open up and this decision today is a big one, but it is the right one to get New South Wales connected globally. It’s going to be great for our tourism industry, it’s going to be great for tourist operators.”
The Australian government had previously indicated that foreign travelers would not be allowed into the country until 2022. It announced two weeks ago that fully vaccinated Australians could travel abroad beginning in November.
Despite the most populous state’s reopening, much of Australia remains under stringent lockdown restrictions.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner of the Northern Territory announced essential workers would need to be vaccinated by Nov. 13. If they are not, they cannot return to work and will have to pay a fine of $5,000 AUD ($3,710 USD).
“Employers will be allowed to request proof of vaccination of staff and will be required to keep a register of the vaccination status of all employees,” reports News.com.au. “Some exemptions will be available to those who have legitimate reasons not to be vaccinated. It must be supported by medical evidence.”
The mandate applies to anyone who interacts with a member of the public, from a hospitality worker to a cosmetologist to a receptionist. It also applies to those who are part of the essential infrastructure, including food, essential security or supply and logistics. People whose workplaces included a high-exposure risk — or who work with those who have a severe risk but can’t be vaccinated — are also required to get the jab.
“You know I am passionate, sometimes aggressively passionate about the importance of the vaccine and I want as many people as possible to be vaccinated,” Gunner said in his announcement. “At the end of the day with all the best information, with all the goodwill, with all the repeated attempts, there are some people and some communities who have said no to the jab and could keep saying no.”