COVID-19 daily cases in New South Wales have dropped below 300, with the state recording 265 today.
Five more people have died with the virus, while 606 people are in hospital and 132 are in intensive care.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said modelling was predicting a case surge as restrictions ease and mobility increases.
"We expect hospitalisations to increase as well," the NSW premier said.
He did not detail what kind of case peaks NSW could expect, other than to say: "That will be a challenge for our state."
A woman in her 30s was among the COVID-19 deaths reported today.
The woman, from the Cessnock area in the Hunter Valley, was not vaccinated and had underlying health conditions. She died at John Hunter Hospital.
A man in his 50s from Sydney's Inner West died at Concord Hospital. He was not vaccinated and had underlying health conditions.
A woman in her 60s, also from the Inner West, died at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She was not vaccinated.
A woman in her 70s from Sydney's south-west died at Concord Hospital. She had received one dose of the vaccine and had underlying health conditions.
A woman in her 80s died at Wollongong Hospital. She had also received one dose of the vaccine and had underlying health conditions.
There have been 475 COVID-19 related deaths in NSW since June 16, and 531 in total since the start of the pandemic.
Today's COVID-19 vaccination numbers for NSW have reached 80.76 per cent double dose, 9News reporter Chris O'Keefe has revealed.
First doses are at 92.1 per cent.
Mr Perrottet is adamant NSW will lead Australia out of the pandemic, by pushing ahead with its no quarantine plan for fully vaccinated travellers.
The premier said the NSW plan was an "important first step" to get Australia reconnected with the world, and he foreshadowed international students could potentially be welcomed back before Christmas.
Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison cautioned NSW that the federal government controlled which demographics would be welcomed back to Australia first.
Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded overseas since the pandemic started.
Mr Perrottet said he was eager to get tourists and international students into the state as quickly as practically possible.
Today's drop in cases comes as schools across the state begin their staggered re-opening.
Remote learning has been in place for 17 weeks in locked-down regions across NSW.
"Many of our children have gone through a very difficult time, not being able to interact and play with their friends," Mr Perrottet said.
"To be back in the classroom is an exciting day for kids and teachers and particularly for parents as well."
Mr Perrottet thanked teachers for their efforts in getting schools open.
Schools in NSW will continue the state's "very successful" school tutorship program into 2022, because children have been kept out of school so long.
Mr Perrottet said the program would run throughout 2022 at a cost of $383 million.
"We do not want any kids across our state to fall behind in what has been a very difficult educational year," he said.
"We want to put as much investment as we can to make sure that kids who maybe are struggling, who may have slipped through the cracks during what has been a challenging educational year."
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said more than 100,000 school staff have been vaccinated.
"We're sitting at about a 90 per cent vaccination rate for our school and admin staff, which is great."
Ms Mitchell said the tutorship program would help those in literacy and numeracy.
She said there would be "a real focus" on schools in southwestern and western Sydney.
The tutorship program means 7500 extra staff on NSW school sites.
Those jobs would go to casual teachers, retired teachers, final year university students and some student learning and support officers.
Ms Mitchell said mandated mask rules in schools would be reviewed regularly, but she would not be drawn on an end date.
The next level down in COVID restrictions means masks do not need to be worn by kids in classrooms, an environment she conceded was "challenging" and not ideal for learning.
Ms Mitchell said that change would happen "as soon as we're able" and that officials would be closely monitoring cases and any outbreaks.
Currently, masks are compulsory for all teachers and high school students and "recommended" for primary students.
Not all students returned to school today, with kindergarten, year one and year 12 students being the first to attend face-to-face classes.
The aim is to have the rest of the state's students back in classrooms by November 1.
But some parents say they are concerned that their unvaccinated kids are at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Rapid antigen testing testing has been flagged to check students before they walk in.
Face-masks will remain mandatory for teachers.
There will be extra protocols in place to increase safety for students and teachers, including staggered start times.
Parents are also encouraged to "kiss and go", and drop their students at the school gates without entering the grounds.
Non-urgent elective surgery will be discussed by the NSW cabinet this week.
Mr Perrottet said it was necessary to allocate health resources "in a safe way" but he wanted it to happen "quickly as possible".
"We'll be having a discussion about that this week."
More freedoms for NSW
Mr Perrottet previously announced a further easing of NSW's ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, to start from today.
These include changes to how many people you can have in your home, the number of clients at hairdressers and beauty salons, and capacity limits in venues.
Regional travel has been pushed back until November 1, the same day the state will scrap quarantine requirements and welcome fully vaccinated travellers in.
"Hotel quarantine will be a thing of the past," Mr Perrottet said last week.
"Working with the Commonwealth Government, people coming into here, you'll need to do a PCR test before you board the flight stop you will need to show proof of your double vaccination.