NSW COVID cases grow by 941; six deaths recorded

Ms Berejiklian said some freedoms slated to begin on December 1 might be brought forward to when the state reaches an 80 per cent second-dose vaccination rate.

Authorities are also finalising changes to the state’s contact tracing protocols to come into effect when lockdown ends.

They will determine in what circumstances close contacts of COVID-19 cases will have to isolate when the state exits lockdown, and what role a person’s vaccination status will play.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said NSW would continue to fund its share of JobSeeker payments after the federal government pulls its funding when the state reaches the 80 per cent vaccination rate.

The payments will be reduced to 30 per cent of weekly payroll when NSW reaches 70 per cent vaccination, and a further cut to 15 per cent of weekly payroll when the state reaches 80 per cent vaccination.

The state government will continue to bankroll the payments until November 30, the day before NSW is due to enter the final state of its reopening plan.

“We know that when we do open up … there will be still some restrictions in place, that businesses will not be operating at full capacity, so by maintaining the NSW government’s contribution to this program, it will allow many businesses the support they need as we move from response to recovery and whilst it’s going to be a difficult time as we go through that reopening,” Mr Perrottet said.

On Thursday, Victoria reported a record 1438 new COVID-19 cases, almost 500 more than Wednesday’s daily total.

The NSW crisis cabinet on Wednesday signed off on plans for Sydney students to return to classrooms a week earlier than previously planned thanks to the state’s high vaccination rates.

Kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 students will now return to face-to-face learning on October 18 instead of October 25.

But teachers’ unions have opposed the move, saying schools need more time to prepare.

The Independent Education Union’s acting NSW secretary Carol Matthews said teachers were concerned about school ventilation systems and a lack of time to get fully vaccinated.

“There was no consultation, certainly with the union for the non- government sector, and I don’t know whether our employers were consulted. I suspect they weren’t,” she said on Chanel Seven’s Sunrise program.

“It’s one thing for teachers to be ready for classes – I’m sure they will be – but it’s quite another for the buildings to be ready for the students.

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“One of the things we have really learnt with this virus is that good ventilation and air filtration is important and you can’t do that overnight.”

While case daily case numbers have begun to fall in Sydney, a growing number of regional NSW locations are being put on alert for COVID-19.

NSW Health on Wednesday night released a list of 35 towns and cities where venues have been added to the state’s list of exposure sites.

The locations include Batemans Bay, Broken Hill, Byron Bay, Tweed Heads and Narooma. The full list of exposure venues can be viewed here.

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Anyone who visited the sites is a casual contact and must get tested and isolate until receiving a negative result.

Meanwhile, NSW Health on Wednesday confirmed people aged 60 and older are now able to access Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Anyone aged 18 and older continues to be eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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