'Absolutely no': John Barilaro says Hunter won't escape COVID-19 lockdown until NSW hits 70% vaccination in mid-October

BLOW: Hunter businesses will stay in lockdown for another five or six weeks.

BLOW: Hunter businesses will stay in lockdown for another five or six weeks.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the Hunter has zero chance of coming out of lockdown until the state reaches its first vaccination target of 70 per cent in October.

The NSW government announced on Thursday that local government areas on the north coast and the Riverina region would be freed from stay-at-home restrictions at midnight on Friday.

The government will reassess lockdowns in other local government areas week-to-week. If they have no COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days, they may escape.

The Hunter recorded 12 new cases on Thursday, nine of them infectious in the community, and has had one virus-free day since August 5.

Mr Barilaro said the Hunter community should plan around staying locked down for another five or six weeks.

"The reality is I can't see Newcastle or the Hunter coming out of lockdown. Full stop. I don't think it's difficult to say that," he said. "If I was a business in that region, the reality now is that with the continued cases, you add the 14 days, are we going to get out of lockdown? The answer would be absolutely no."

Every Hunter LGA, Central Coast and MidCoast will stay in lockdown. Muswellbrook and Singleton were poised to escape until an Upper Hunter mineworker from Dungog tested positive on Tuesday.

Mr Barilaro said the list of exposure sites linked to the case was expected to grow.

"Muswellbrook and Singleton, it's almost on the eve that that scenario changed."

At existing vaccination rates, the state will reach 70 per cent adult double-dose vaccination on October 20 and start reopening on Monday, October 25.

Hunter Business chief executive Bob Hawes predicted the rules would create tension between business owners and the unvaccinated.

"As we're seeing with people now still breaking down after being asked for a QR code or to wear a mask, this is just another extension of an opportunity for people to do the wrong thing," he said.

But Mr Hawes said the government's announcement would at least give businesses more certainty.

"We now know that the longest our region should have to wait is mid-October, so businesses can start ordering, staffing and reconnecting with customers."

More than 75 per cent of people aged 16 and over in NSW have received one vaccine dose and 42 per cent have had both, but Ms Berejiklian said the vaccination rate had slowed.

"You have been warned," she said in reference to unvaccinated people being denied freedoms when the state started reopening.

NSW reported 1405 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and five COVID deaths on Thursday.