The New South Wales deputy premier says the state’s construction industry will restart from Wednesday with work on unoccupied sites to resume, albeit with new worksite capacity limits.

Building sites in eight “high-risk” coronavirus hotspots in the south-west and west—Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta—have remained shut since late-June.

As a result of the government barring more than 75,000 construction workers in the eight local government areas (LGAs) from working or leaving the areas, an estimated $7.8 billion worth of projects had been put on hold.

Light construction work, in non-high-risk locations, recommenced in late July with builders allowed to engage in preliminary and basic works, including maintenance, deliveries, and machinery and site preparation.

Sites will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity and will welcome workers who are vaccinated.

“We want workers back on the tools, but we need to continue to keep this virus at bay,” NSW deputy premier John Barilaro said.

“By opening unoccupied worksites at 50 per cent capacity and vaccinating workers from within those affected LGAs, we can achieve both.

“Construction workers from the affected LGAs will be added to the list of authorised workers allowing them to work on unoccupied construction sites in Greater Sydney if they meet the vaccination conditions.”

Construction workers from affected LGAs will have to provide evidence that they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine; one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at least three weeks or one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and, if less than three weeks since that vaccine was administered, a negative Covid-19 test.

The construction industry has been urging the state government to overturn its shutdown of the construction sites amid warnings of a $2-billion blow to the economy as builders across greater Sydney scramble to deal with fallout from the ban.

UDIA chief executive Steve Mann said the announcement was a positive step for the industry and would directly or indirectly impact one in four jobs in the state.

“This approach is considered more durable, given the likelihood of LGAs coming in and out of hotspots and lockdown restrictions and the economic imperative that the development and construction industries stay open,” Mann said.

“This is seen as a positive step and one which also brings great responsibility for the industry to continue to operate in a Covid safe way, taking every measure to avoid any infections on sites and protect our workers and the wider community.”

Australian Constructors Association chief executive Jon Davies said the announcement followed weeks of collaborative discussions between industry associations, unions and government.

“Already considered one of the strictest operating environments, construction sites are conducting rapid antigen testing to further add to the existing comprehensive Covid protocols,” Davies said.

“We recognise that to fully get the industry back to work we need to increase vaccination rates so that all restrictions can be removed.”

Construction workers will be prioritised for vaccination at a dedicated clinic at Sydney Olympic Park on August 15.

Meanwhile lockdowns have lifted in regional Victoria with all limitations on the distance regional Victorians can travel from home lifted.

However, regional Victorians will only be able to travel to Melbourne for a permitted reason and must follow Melbourne restrictions.

The Queensland government has also ending its week-long snap lockdown for 11 local government areas in south-east Queensland.

Building and construction has returned to full operation, while restrictions, particularly regarding wearing masks, will continue for all the relevant local government areas for two weeks until 22 August.

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