After 108 days, gyms, hospitality venues, cinemas, retail, libraries, and places of worship reopened to the fully vaccinated today, even as an aged care outbreak surges.

Key points:

  • 14 residents at the IRTs Tarrawanna Aged Care Centre have tested positive to COVID-19
  • One staff member has also contracted the virus
  • The outbreak continues as restrictions across the region begin to ease

COVID-19 case numbers at an aged care facility in the Illawarra have more than doubled since an outbreak started four days ago. 

Fourteen residents have now tested positive for the virus at the IRT’s Tarrawanna Aged Care Centre, north of Wollongong. 

A staff member has also been infected. 

Thirteen of the residents and the employee are fully vaccinated, while one of the residents had their first jab. 

“The majority of the residents remain in the centre with regular monitoring and support.

“If they require acute care or develop complications of existing health issues they may be transferred to Wollongong Hospital or Lawrence Hargrave Hospital.”

The outbreak started at the facility last week when four men and two women, who lived on the same floor, tested positive for the virus on Thursday. 

Three of the residents were transferred to Wollongong Hospital on Friday and Mr Reid said they “remain stable”.

Restrictions ease

Chairs and tables outside a cafe on the beach

Thirroul Beach Pavilion was able to put chairs and tables outside for the first time in months.(Supplied: Thirroul Beach Pavilion)

As the aged care facility continues to grapple with the outbreak, residents and businesses in the Illawarra have emerged from lock down.

Gyms, hospitality venues, cinemas, retail, libraries, and places of worship reopened to the fully vaccinated, while 100 guests could attend weddings and funerals.

Wollongong and Shellharbour residents were able to visit family and friends inside their homes for the first time since the Delta outbreak started in June.

“It feels really bizarre,” said Thirroul Beach Pavilion employee Maddy Martin.

“Carrying the chairs out was really different. There’s just so much to think about.

“But we’re very excited.”

‘Emotional’ reunion

Aged care homes also reopened to visitors, with two people allowed to see their loved ones inside bedrooms.

Mollymook resident Judy Hamilton said the lockdown had been difficult for her 98-year-old mother.

“She felt like she was in prison,” Ms Hamilton said.

“My sister and I were visiting at least three times a week and then all of a sudden she couldn’t have those visits.

“I’m so excited about it on the one hand, and I’m really anxious about it on the other hand.”

Rules ‘discriminatory’

But not all were optimistic about the reopening.

The front of a shop with a big sign

Levers Art Supplies has decided not to reopen due to concerns the rules are discriminatory.(Facebook)

The owner of Levers Art Supplies in Wollongong said the doors to his business would remain shut as he was concerned the vaccination rules would discriminate against some customers.

“I’m not anti-vaccination, I’m anti-mandatory vaccination, I’m pro-choice.”

Mr Levers said he planned to continue operating his businesses through click and collect until the state offers freedoms to those who are not vaccinated, from December 1.

Schools are due to reopen across the region on October 25 and travel restrictions are expected to ease between Greater Sydney and regional areas once New South Wales reaches its 80 per cent vaccination rate.

On Monday, 73.5 per cent of people aged over 16 had been fully vaccinated.

Across the state there were 498 new infections and eight deaths, with 769 people being treated for the virus in hospital including 153 in intensive care.

There were 35 new cases of COVID-19 across the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

Seventeen were from the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA), 11 infections were in the Shellharbour LGA, and 10 Shoalhaven residents had also contracted the virus.

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Aged care COVID-19 outbreak grows as businesses, residents emerge from Illawarra lockdown
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