From Saturday, anyone wishing to leave the Greater Sydney area for regional NSW will require an authorised permit, the NSW government has announced.
In doing so it also reclassified "Greater Sydney" to Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong, with Shellharbour and the Central Coast rejoining "regional NSW".
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the permits for regional travel would only be issued for valid reasons and hefty penalties would apply for not having one, or for supplying false information in the application process.
As well as the permit, anyone wishing to travel into regional NSW from Greater Sydney will have to have had a COVID-19 test and negative result within the previous seven days.
Valid reasons for a permit include for the purposes of work, or urgent maintenance on a second property - "and it must be urgent" Mr Barliaro said.
The Deputy Premier had earlier stated that loopholes for regional travel were being closed off, with Sydney-siders no longer able to travel to and from their second residence at whim, and that if urgent maintenance was required on that second residence then only one person from the family was permitted to make the trip.
Travel within Greater Sydney was permitted up to 50km without a permit, he said, which was the reason Shellharbour and Central Coast were reclassified, to allow continuity of travel within that region rather than allow travel 50km beyond those outer LGAs.
"If we've got to strengthen that further we will, and we may apply the permit system harder across the board, but we will give it a number of weeks to play out," he added.
Hearing of reports Sydney families were attempting to book vaccinations in regional locations like Bega, Mr Barilaro said it was offensive.
"I find it offensive that Sydney people are using the excuse of medical reasons to go to the regions, and that one of those medical reasons is for a vaccine shot when they have an abundance of vaccine entry points here in Sydney.
"So in that alone is offensive because it means someone in regional and rural NSW like, down in Bega for example, is being delayed their shot."
He said medical reasons could be a valid reason to request a permit to leave Greater Sydney, but added that the system would have the ability to check that the medical reason was not for a vaccine outside of their own area.
Mr Barilaro said he felt confident the lockdown in regional NSW would be lifted as scheduled on August 28.
"I'll say this very clearly - next Saturday our intention is to lift the restrictions in regional and rural NSW," he told regional journalists on Thursday.
"That's almost a blunt commitment.
"And we'll do that on the things I spoke about yesterday - are there any active cases in that LGA? Are there fragments in the sewage? Are you adjoining another LGA that has high case numbers?
"If you tick any of those boxes you won't be coming out but we will be looking at an LGA approach.
"And I'm confident as of next Saturday, or the following Monday children will be resuming school in regional rural NSW as normal."
Mr Barilaro acknowledged there was frustration in regions without active cases.
"I know there's frustration. I know there are people frustrated saying 'we have no cases here'.
"I wish no cases on any part of the regions.
"But in part it's because of these lockdowns that you have no cases."
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