Record virus deaths in NSW, 863 new cases

Gladys Berejiklian says fully vaccinated people can visit aged care homes from October 11.
Gladys Berejiklian says fully vaccinated people can visit aged care homes from October 11.

As the end of lockdown creeps closer, the NSW government is copping criticism over its plans to enforce the 'lockout' of unvaccinated people.

Some 863 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed across the state in the 24-hours until 8pm on Tuesday and a record 15 deaths.

With vaccination rates due to reach 70 per cent double-dose coverage next week, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced visits to aged care homes would be allowed from October 11.

Two fully vaccinated people will be able to visit a resident per day.

A suite of other restrictions are also due to lift on October 11, with the fully vaccinated able to dine out, go to the gym and have five visitors in their home.

But the government on Wednesday faced questions about plans to enforce the rules, which prohibit the unvaccinated from taking part.

NSW Police have indicated it won't be policing vaccination passports, and Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday said businesses wouldn't be punished for rule breakers.

The premier denied that meant no one would be enforcing the restrictions, arguing there were incentives for individuals and businesses to do the right thing.

"For a large venue with hundreds of people in there, we would expect a staff member to be checking that as people come in. For very small premises, that expectation is less," she said.

"(But) I just want to stress the point that anybody who flagrantly does the wrong thing will be fined.

"There are penalties for individuals and businesses."

But Opposition Leader Chris Minns says businesses are still confused about their obligations once lockdown is lifted.

"We want freedom day to work, but it does require clarity when it comes to these important positions," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"I don't think it's fair to ask small and medium businesses to make it up as they go along."

The primary focus of businesses, however, should be ensuring the safety of their staff - not necessarily their patrons, Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

They need to protect themselves, by being vaccinated, she said.

"In a world where COVID is endemic... to some extent the onus will be a little bit more about personal responsibility."

The reopening of the state will also mean financial support for businesses and individuals will be wound back.

The federal government on Wednesday announced billions of dollars in federal cash assistance will be phased out over two weeks once a state reaches 80 per cent double dose vaccination.

Ms Berejiklian indicated NSW may soon follow suit.

"We extended that support to everybody across the state while we could and now that we are starting to open up we really need to consider where our resources are needed," she said.

"I suspect we will have a much more targeted approach."

But Mr Minns says it is clear ongoing support must be provided by both the state and the commonwealth for businesses that have gone months without significant revenue.

"I don't think it's as simple as them opening up the front door and turning on the light and accepting customers into their shops," he said.

"There are too many jobs on the line to get this wrong."

It comes as the deadline looms for health workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose.

Mr Hazzard says 97.5 per cent of the NSW Health workforce will be vaccinated by Thursday.

Excluding those who have medical exemption, those remaining will likely be unable to work.

"If you don't care enough to get vaccinated and look after your colleagues, if you don't care enough to look after your patients, then you probably shouldn't be in the health system," he said.

Meanwhile, the Byron Shire could be sent back into lockdown only hours after it was released, after two people who were infectious in the community were among Tuesday's cases.

Australian Associated Press