Another 406 virus cases, six deaths in NSW

The NSW government is restarting a voucher program to give the hospitality sector a boost.
The NSW government is restarting a voucher program to give the hospitality sector a boost.

NSW Health has announced 406 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths, as the state moves to encouraging people back to reopened businesses.

Two more $25 vouchers are on the way for every adult in NSW and alfresco dining is on the menu this summer under a plan to boost the state's hospitality industry after months of lockdown.

The popular Dine and Discover voucher program, which has been used by 4.8 million people, will be expanded, with two more $25 vouchers available in December - one for dining and one for entertainment.

Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday said this would give the sector a huge boost because people tend to spend more than $25.

"They have been incredibly successful and popular, from Ballina to Balmain, from Byron to Broken Hill," he said.

"People right across the state have gone out and used the voucher, and importantly, spent more.

"It's driven economic activity in NSW. It's got people back into work."

He was speaking before NSW Health announced there were 406 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours until 8pm on Wednesday - down from 444 the previous day.

There were six more deaths recorded 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 premier said the Dine and Discover program is costing the government $250 million but so far it had delivered a $500 million shot in the arm for businesses around the state.

Anyone who hasn't applied for any of the vouchers can access their ServiceNSW app to get all six, which will be active until June next year.

Additionally, small bars and pubs given exemptions to set up tables and chairs on footpaths last summer will be allowed to keep doing so indefinitely, under the government's $66 million Alfresco Restart Initiative.

"We want to bring life and laughter into the city during summer," Mr Perrottet said.

The government will also provide $5000 grants to hospitality businesses on a first-in basis to "embrace alfresco dining" and "move the inside to the outside".

As well, up to $500,000 will be available in grants for councils to improve their high streets.

"We think that these changes today will help our businesses to flourish over the summer months as we get through this pandemic," Mr Perrottet said.

"I am incredibly confident we're going to bounce back strongly here in NSW."

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

Mr Perrottet will meet with senior colleagues on Thursday to decide what new freedoms could be granted from Monday.

The next stage wasn't due to begin until October 25.

But the government's COVID-19 and economic recovery committee - formerly known as crisis cabinet - is unlikely to give the green light to regional travel given lower vaccination rates in some rural communities.

In areas like Byron Bay on the north coast, 47 per cent of the eligible adult population is double vaccinated, leaving the community vulnerable to a possible outbreak.

"There have been concerns raised about regional NSW when you look at those double dose vaccination rates," Mr Perrottet said on Wednesday.

Pubs, restaurants, gyms and shops have been open to people who are fully vaccinated since Monday, when the state came out of a near-four month lockdown.

The next stage could see outdoor gatherings of up to 50, 20 guests in a home, dancing at hospitality venues and drinking standing up at the pub.

Australian Associated Press