Covid-19 Australia: NSW regional travel delayed until November 1

Sydneysiders will have to wait a little while longer for their next holiday as regional travel is delayed until November 1. 

NSW deputy premier Paul Toole announced that intrastate travel will not restart for another two weeks because of low vaccination rates in regional NSW.

‘I know it’s frustrating,’ he told 2GB on Friday. ‘I know it’s a very difficult time because I know that people are wanting to pack their bags.’

‘They’re wanting to go to regional NSW, they want to go on a holiday, they want to go and catch up with family and their loved ones.’ 

Sydneysiders will have to wait a little while longer for their next holiday as regional travel is delayed until November 1

NSW deputy premier Paul Toole announced that intrastate travel will not restart for another two weeks because of low vaccination rates in regional NSW

NSW deputy premier Paul Toole announced that intrastate travel will not restart for another two weeks because of low vaccination rates in regional NSW

Regional travel was initially expected to restart when the state hit its 70 per cent vaccination milestone. 

The state government then announced it would be delayed until NSW hit the 80 per cent vaccination target – which is expected to be met before next Monday.

Mr Toole said the decision to delay intrastate travel for a third time was not made lightly. 

‘I know it’s not an easy decision that’s been made,’ Mr Toole said. ‘We have a responsibility here to make sure we keep our regional community safe.’

‘It’s important that we don’t actually open up businesses, and then we start to see them have case numbers start to escalate.’ 

The deputy premier said he could not allow the state to reopen too quickly and risk a surge in Covid-19 case numbers in regional towns with low vaccination rates.

‘I’ve got some communities that have only got 47 per cent,’ Mr Toole said. ‘I’ve got some areas that are just in their early 50s.’ 

‘We need to make sure we lift those vaccination rates in regional communities. We want to welcome people back with open arms.’

Radio host Ben Fordham accused the deputy premier of ‘dudding’ thousands of residents who had made plans to holiday or reunite with loved ones in the area.

‘We need to make sure we strike the right balance of opening up and protecting the lives of people,’ Mr Toole responded. 

Fordham partly blamed the slow vaccination rates in regional NSW on the state government’s decision to redirect jabs to Greater Sydney. 

‘People have rolled up their sleeves and done the right thing and now you’ve betrayed them,’ Fordham said. 

‘I don’t know how many broken promises there are on regional travel. I can’t keep up.’

Mr Toole's announcement comes after the decision to delay intrastate travel was made in a NSW cabinet meeting on Thursday

Mr Toole’s announcement comes after the decision to delay intrastate travel was made in a NSW cabinet meeting on Thursday

There is speculation regional travel will not restart until October 25. Pictured: Huskisson on the NSW South Coast

There is speculation regional travel will not restart until October 25. Pictured: Huskisson on the NSW South Coast

The decision to delay intrastate travel was made during a NSW cabinet meeting on Thursday. 

Premier Dominic Perrottet warned earlier this week intrastate travel may be pushed back amid concerns opening up could put residents in lower vaccination rate areas at risk. 

‘It has come up because of the significant increase in the vaccination rate and that is a great thing,’ he said.

‘We want to open up as quickly and safely as possible. That is exactly what we are doing.’ 

Mr Perrottet said authorities anticipate that Covid numbers will climb across the state once travel restrictions are lifted. 

‘We certainly believe, based on the advice we’ve received from (NSW) Health, that there will be naturally an increase in case numbers, in hospitalisations, as mobility increases across the state,’ he said previously.

At the forefront of concerns are popular travel destinations like Byron Bay and the Hunter Valley vineyards where jab rates are lagging.

Sydneysiders looking for a getaway will have to wait a little longer as regional travel is delayed (pictured: Surfers in Byron Bay)

Sydneysiders looking for a getaway will have to wait a little longer as regional travel is delayed (pictured: Surfers in Byron Bay)

While NSW has achieved 75 per cent coverage, the Byron Shire in Northern NSW sits at just 47 per cent.

In the town of Cessnock – gateway to the Hunter Valley’s stunning wine region – just 58.4 per cent of residents aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated.   

Coffs Harbour and Kempsey on the north and mid-north coast are also at 58 per cent, while Inverell in the Northern Tablelands and Junee in the Riverina have only managed 57 per cent coverage. 

The announcement comes as NSW recorded 406 new locally acquired cases of Covid on Thursday- down from 444 the previous day.

There were also six more deaths reported and 711 people are now in hospital with COVID, with 143 people in ICU.

More than 91 per cent of the eligible population have had their first vaccination and 76.5 per cent are now fully vaccinated.

The state now looks set to reach its 80 per cent double Covid-19 vaccination milestone by the weekend, which would be earlier than expected. 

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