THERE was plenty to celebrate as Bathurst took its first steps out of lockdown on Monday; the challenge for all of us now is to not undo the good work that has been done.
The next couple of weeks will be among the most important for our community as we all begin mingling again.
The Bathurst region has recorded a few days in a row of zero new COVID cases but as people begin visiting from other regional areas, not to mention when regional NSW reopens to people from Greater Sydney in 10 days or so, we have to expect that will change.
Health officials have made it clear that the community should expect case numbers to rise in coming weeks as we start learning to properly live with COVID-19 and it is only our vaccination rate that will continue to protect us from the worst of the virus.
So that must be our focus now, ensuring that as many of us as possible are double-vaccinated before NSW hits the 80 per cent mark and restrictions on movement ease further.
After a reasonably slow start Bathurst has done a remarkable job in lifting its vaccination rate with the first dose figure for residents aged 16 and above now sitting at more than 90 per cent.
That's a fantastic result and we hope that number will continue to rise, along with the number of children who can now access vaccination.
But we must also appreciate there are limits to the protection vaccination can provide.
We've been told that being vaccinated won't necessarily prevent us from contracting COVID and nor will it always stop us passing it on to someone else.
But vaccinated people are likely to experience a much milder dose of the virus and are much less likely to require hospitalisation, let alone a stay in intensive care. And while vaccinated people may still transmit the virus to others, the health advice is that transmission is much less likely.
That's good news for us as individuals and also as a community because it means our hospital is much less likely to become overwhelmed by admissions in the case of a local outbreak.
Freedom Day is not a free-for-all and we still have a duty to ourselves and those around us to be safe and sensible.
Bathurstians have done a fantastic job throughout this pandemic; we know they will continue to do the right thing.
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