NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks during a COVID-19 update and press conference on August 23, 2021, in Sydney, Australia.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state's "outstanding" vaccination rate means residents are a step closer to freedom, despite 818 new COVID-19 infections being recorded.
NSW has passed 5.9 million vaccinations, 738,000 of which were administered last week.
Ms Berejiklian said NSW's vaccination rate was among the highest in the world, with the state expected to reach its target of 6 million jabs "at least a week early".
The Premier said the target would prompt some restrictions to be eased for some people, and that specifics would be revealed later this week.
"We will be able to communicate what additional freedom people may have once they get to full vaccination and during September, and we will outline our plan for schools," she said.
"Both are a work in progress and we are consulting with the chief psychiatrist as well as the public health team to get the right balance."
Ms Berejiklian acknowledged NSW residents may be going through "the rollercoaster of emotions" as case numbers fluctuate.
"I don't want us to focus so much on the numbers going up and down," she said.
"We want to see them go down, no doubt about that, and we're working so hard to make it possible, but the number we need to focus on is the vaccination rate."
Three COVID-19 patients, who all had underlying health conditions, died in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm yesterday.
A man in his 80s from southwest Sydney died at Liverpool Hospital, where he acquired the infection. He is the 11th person to die from the outbreak at the hospital's geriatric ward.
A woman in her 80s from southwest Sydney died at Campbelltown Hospital, while a man in his 80s died at John Hunter Hospital after becoming infected at a nursing home in Edgeworth, near Newcastle. His is the second death linked to that aged care facility.
Of the new cases, 120 were linked to a known case or cluster, while 94 were household contacts and 26 were close contacts.
The source of infection for 698 cases is still under investigation.
Forty-two cases were infectious in the community and a further 15 were in the community for part of their infectious period. Contact tracers are working to determine the isolation status of another 714 cases.
There were 160,000 vaccinations administered in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm.
Ms Berejiklian appealed for people not to cancel AstraZeneca appointments in order to wait for Pfizer.
"We're urging everybody to come forward and get vaccinated, whatever vaccine you can get your hands-on," she said.
She acknowledged high case numbers were confronting but said vaccination would help keep people out of the hospital.
"Once you start opening your border, every state is going to see case numbers and that's why we just have to get used to the fact that our aim during the pandemic is to keep people safe and healthy and keep them out of hospital but trying to get to normal life as soon as we can."
Deputy chief health officer Marianne Gale said authorities remained concerned about transmission in southwest Sydney, particularly the suburbs of Merrylands, Guildford, Auburn, Greystanes, Greenacre, and Bankstown.
There are also concerns for parts of Western NSW, including Dubbo where there were 14 new cases overnight.
COVID-19 fragments have also been identified in sewage in Bateau Bay on the Central Coast, with residents of those areas encouraged to get tested.
Ms Berejiklian would not be drawn on a timeline for when children would return to school, however, she confirmed home-schooling would remain in place for all of September.
"It is important for us to make sure we have considered all issues in relation to schools going back," she said.
"As soon as we have concrete advice … we will communicate it."
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said almost 7,000 infringement notices had been issued this year — 590 of which were in the past 24 hours.
He said it was "very disappointing" that 60 people gathered yesterday at a church in Blacktown, in Sydney's west.
He said those who attended had put themselves and their children at great risk.
"Regardless whether it is a soccer match, a church service, it doesn't matter.
"You cannot gather, as they did, at Blacktown. I would hope that that would be the last time that we see this kind of activity from this group of people."
Ms Berejiklian said it was "very disheartening … when people just blatantly ignore" rules in place.
There are currently 586 COVID-19 cases in the hospital, with 100 people in intensive care, 32 of whom require ventilation.