Hunter records 82 new COVID cases as officials urge ‘Freedom Day’ caution

The Hunter has recorded 82 new COVID cases on “Freedom Day” as the region continues to post some of the highest numbers in the New South Wales.Key points:There have been 1,768 cases of coronavirus in the Hunter New England Health District since August 5Hairdressers, gyms, and hospitality venues are welcoming back customers todayThe Deputy Prime Minister says Indigenous vaccination rates need to improve as the state opens upMany parts of the region are yet to reach the 70 per cent double vaccination target and health officials are urging locals to be cautious despite the eased restrictions.Twenty-eight of the 82 cases in the Hunter New England (HNE) Health District were in Lake Macquarie.There were 14 in Cessnock, nine in Newcastle, seven in Maitland, four at Port Stephens, three in Muswellbrook and one in the Upper Hunter.Hunter public health controller David Durrheim said he expected a careful approach to the opening up of the retail and hospitality sectors.”I think until we’re all heading towards the 90 per cent double-vaxxed, we’ll be a little bit more cautious,” he said.He said the Hunter needed to brace for more cases.”I think we’re going to have a few bumpy weeks with the Delta strain,” he said.”For every 100 cases at least 10 of those will end up in a hospital bed, and one will end up in ICU.”So the hospitals are preparing, the health system is preparing.”There was a total of 496 new locally acquired cases of coronavirus recorded across NSW.Only the South Western Sydney LHD had more cases than HNE in the latest reporting period. Karen Radzievic says the past few months have been been challenging for her business.(ABC Newcastle: Jenny Marchant)Retailer ‘nervous’Fully vaccinated people can now have up to 10 double-dosed guests over the age of 12 in their home.Cafes, restaurants, bars, gyms, hairdressers and retail shops can reopen by following the one-person-per-four-square-metre rule.Karen Radzievic owns a women’s clothing shop in Boolaroo that is welcoming back customers today.”We had a thriving business and watching it close through no fault of our own was difficult, ” she said.The business set up an online website and a click-and-collect system during the lockdown, but still has a lot of clothes to sell.”We closed in August with a lot of winter and trans-seasonal stock — we’re now reopening with a shop full of summer clothes,” Ms Radzievic said.”Its very devastating for businesses to lose a whole season.”LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemicMs Radzievic is hoping customers opposed to vaccination requirements will not cause too much trouble.”There’s people with all different beliefs about vaccination and for us to now mandate that with people coming through the door, I’m quite nervous,” she said.Noel Pate, who runs a Newsagency in Boolaroo, says locals are expressing concern over the possible influx of people to the area.”If people still obey the basic rules, I think that we should all survive,” he said.”The COVID numbers haven’t decreased in Lake Macquarie at this stage, so yeah, we’ve just got to wait and see I guess.” The Awabakal Medical Service has been working to vaccinate Indigenous residents in the Newcastle region.(Supplied: Awabakal)’Real vulnerabilities’Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce was in Lake Macquarie today to announce funding for Glendale’s Hunter Sports Centre and took the opportunity to urge people to get the jab.”We’re all over this, we’re all sick of it,” he said.”It’s about getting to a point where we can get our liberties and freedoms back.”Read more about the vaccine rollout:Access to vaccine supplies has been increased in some communities that are about three weeks behind the state’s overall rate.Rates in the Hunter’s Indigenous community has become a great concern, with 60 of last week’s cases diagnosed in Indigenous people.Less than half of the eligible Indigenous population in the region is fully vaccinated.”We still need to make sure we drive that vaccination rate up in the Aboriginal community,” Mr Joyce said.”The National Security Committee is making sure we have a real focus, because they have real vulnerabilities.”Culturally, especially with funerals, there’s a real movement of people from one area to another.”Additional reporting by Delia Bell.Newcastle newsletter: Local news in your inboxABC Newcastle will deliver a wrap of the week’s news, stories and photos every Wednesday. Sign up here.Loading form…

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