Lockdown is over: NSW celebrates lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

By Jorge Branco
Richard Wood

Oct 11, 2021

New South Wales residents are being urged to show patience as bars, restaurants, shops, gyms and hairdressers reopen today after more than 100 days in COVID-19 lockdown.

Premier Dominic Perrottet told Today the easing of restrictions was a major step forward but it also brought challenges.

"It's going to be a challenge but I have complete faith in the people of our state, over this period, that they will treat everyone with kindness and respect," Mr Perrottet said.

"But I ask people to be patient today and over the course of the next few weeks as we move through it. Because there will be challenges, there will be difficulties."

Hair and beauty salon workers are expecting to be run off their feet as people try to look their best for a social circle suddenly widened beyond Zoom calls and small picnics.

Alexi Boyd, chief executive of Small Business Australia, told Today that traders had a lot to juggle, including mandating customer vaccinations.

"There is lots to consider at the moment. Small businesses are probably worried about whether or not they can bring their staff back on board at full capacity.

"They are worried about mandating vaccines with their customers and maybe a little behaviour that might not be so helpful."

Ms Boyd asked customers to show patience with staff today.

"What we are asking people is be patient, be kind, be considerate of that small business owner and people working for them. Don't take out your frustrations especially on them, but in particular on social media later on.

"We are seeking real support from the community as small businesses begin to find their feet again after being closed for so long."

Shoppers, gym goers flocking back

Gyms are bracing for a rush of people seeking to make up for a few lockdown indulgences and non-essential businesses of all varieties are keen to welcome customers back to shops.

One gym at Penrith in Western Sydney opened its doors before dawn today.

Owner Michael told 9News that members have started returning for an early workout.

"It is pretty exciting," he told Today.

"So for the community, for us as owners it will be very exciting. Freedom day here we are."

The Kmart store at Penrith also reopened in the early hours, with shoppers queuing at the doors before midnight and hoping to make the most of bargain offers.

Police ready to help businesses

NSW Police are on standby ready to help small businesses enforce vaccination requirements as 'Freedom Day' dawns.

Highway patrol officers will also be out in force making sure residents of Greater Sydney do not break the rules and try to enter regional NSW, the state's police commissioner Mick Fuller told Today.

And for revellers that don't have to worry about work in the morning, bars and pubs across the city have been happy to pour pints and mix cocktails again after so long.

The Toongabbie Sports Club in the city's west threw open its doors at midnight in a move CEO Andrew Lauridsen said was about getting the community to connect again.

"It's a celebration, it's a welcome back, it's a come and have a beer with your mates," he told 9News.

"And I think that mateship, that Aussie mateship's really been missing in those times and it's going to be so pleasing to see it back."

Cheers on George Street, Scruffy Murphy's and the Canterbury Leagues Club were all just as keen to get cracking.

Pictures posted on Twitter appeared to show people queuing up outside both Cheers and the leagues club.

It's good news too, for shoppers desperate for a bit of browsing rather than just click and collect, as Kmart welcomed back customers at midnight.

Journalism student Liam Gilleland shared a video of a busy Kmart car park with a lengthy queue to get in just before midnight.

Amid all the excitement many questions remain over what comes next.

It's unclear exactly what effect reopening, even with more than 70 per cent of those aged 16 and over double-vaccinated, will have on the virus's spread.

And some businesses have expressed concern over how they'll be able to keep unvaccinated would-be patrons away in an aggravated situation.

Premier Dominic Perrottet urged his constituents to treat each other with kindness and respect, acknowledging the "challenges" that awaited in coming days.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned people should continue to be cautious.

"We are still in the middle of a pandemic," Mr Hazzard said.

"Enjoy what we've all worked very, very hard for, but just be careful."