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NSW records big drop in cases and five deaths

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Small and medium-sized NSW businesses have been given the green light to restock for Christmas after the state government released an economic recovery plan it hopes will lead “major summer trade”.

It comes as the state records 360 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, as well as five deaths.

A day after the state began to emerge from a near four-month lockdown, Premier Dominic Perrottet and Treasurer Matt Kean on Tuesday announced a package to support business.

Shops, gyms, cafes and hair salons were on Monday overrun as fully-vaccinated patrons responded to weeks of pent-up demand, and as people ventured more than five kilometres from home.

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While authorities and business owners were nervous about potential conflict because unvaccinated people are currently denied entry and in-venue service, most in NSW were on their best behaviour.

Mr Perrottet said Tuesday’s announcement was “all about confidence”.

“Last year, as we came through the pandemic, business confidence was key – was crucial – to driving economic growth, to ensuring that businesses continued to employ and bring people on,” he said.

Eligible businesses with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million will be able to apply for a grant of up to $20,000 to compensate for loss of perishable stock, or claim $10,000 for reduced capacity to sell non-perishable items, if they are impacted by a lockdown.

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“As we head into the summer months and Christmas trade … businesses can go out and invest in their businesses,” the premier said.

He insisted any future lockdown would be a last, not first, resort.

The package also includes toll road relief for businesses with an annual wages cost below $1.2 million which don’t qualify for payroll tax.

Those businesses will be able to claim road tolls under the small business fees and charges rebate, increased to $2000.

“We know that is really going to support tradies,” he said.

With NSW already on the verge of another critical COVID-19 vaccination milestone, crowds could also soon be back in stadiums and nightclubs.

More than 80 per cent of the population is predicted to be fully vaccinated as soon as next Monday, triggering freedoms on October 25.

As of Sunday, vaccination coverage sits at 74 per cent.

Unlike his predecessor, Mr Perrottet said he had no concerns labelling Monday a “Freedom Day” for the state but reiterated caution.

Despite current limitations – including mask-wearing, social distancing, strict density limits and venue caps – Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope described the mood in NSW as one of elation.

Later on Tuesday, NSW parliament will resume after a three-month hiatus, with Mr Perrottet facing his first Question Time as premier after the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian earlier this month.

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VICTORIA RECORDS 1466 NEW COVID-19 CASES, EIGHT DEATHS

Victoria has recorded 1466 new COVID-19 infections and eight deaths, as farming and agriculture groups call for clarity ahead the looming vaccine mandate deadline.

The health department confirmed on Tuesday there are 19,627 infections in the state, after 68,509 tests.

More than 36,000 Victorians were vaccinated at state-run centres on Monday.

The new deaths bring the toll from the current outbreak to 101.

Agriculture and farming industry groups are calling for the state government to “urgently clarify” employer and worker rights ahead of the vaccine mandate deadline.

The deadline for authorised workers to show proof they have received or booked their first vaccine or have a medical exemption is in three days.

The Victorian Farmers Federation, AUSVEG VIC, Fruit Growers Victoria and a number of other groups have issued a joint-call for clarity around unfair dismissal, privacy rights and employer and employee obligations ahead of the October 15 deadline.

The groups have been speaking to Agriculture Victoria about their concerns, but they say “crucial” information on the vaccine mandate remains unclear.

Among their questions, the industry wants to know whether employers are at risk of being pursued by workers under industrial relations laws, and how employers can request for an employee’s vaccination status without breaching their privacy.

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STATE-BY-STATE CASE BREAKDOWN

VIC – 1466 new local cases, eight deaths

NSW – 360 new local cases, five deaths

QLD – TBA

ACT – TBA

WA – TBA

SA – TBA

TAS – TBA

NT – TBA

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