While the local region will come out of lockdown on Saturday, leaders have warned it doesn't mean it's a free-for-all.
Armidale Mayor Ian Tiley said he was very pleased about the end of the five-week Armidale local lockdown but dreaded another one or disruption to the upcoming local government elections.
"It's been an incredibly tough time, especially for all those businesses which have been closed or operating at less than optimal capacity," Cr Tiley said.
"There is a real note of caution though that if we get but one case of COVID-19, we will go back into lockdown for 14 days, so it's important to encourage all the good folk of Armidale to continue with social distancing, the wearing of masks and of course, getting the jab.
"We're doing well, but we need to keep that up."
Cr Tiley said the lockdown had gone on for too long, and he had evidence it was impacting the mental health of residents.
"I had five Zoom meetings yesterday, and it is just not the same as face-to-face," he said.
"It is very difficult for people. I have had quite a number of people ( who are home alone and terribly lonely ) call me just to have a conversation. And I have received more than normal amounts of emails about council matters.
"It demonstrates to me there are real issues in the community beyond the economy. We need to look out for each other."
Armidale Regional Council has continued to operate most services throughout the lockdown, with all outdoor staff working as usual within COVID-19 guidelines and all but eight indoor staff working from home.
Council's general manager, James Roncon, is currently working on a return to office plan with his staff.
"I've had no comments about a reduction in council services, so that is really good," Cr Tiley said.
"It's been difficult running council meetings online and an interesting challenge, but the councillors were all great and understood the predicament - you've got to do what you've got to do."
One of the biggest threats to Armidale posed by the pandemic is another delay to local government elections, according to Cr Tiley.
"I just hope we have an election because we've had two extensions now, and our remit was for a three-year term, and we'll be 15 months over that," he said.
"We're down to seven councillors, and we need refreshing of the local government body ASAP. Let's just hope and pray that the December 4 election goes go ahead.
"I'm hoping it will if vaccination rates are up to that 70 and 80 per cent that the government is talking about.
"I know the Electoral Commission said it hasn't got time to enable full online voting at local government elections, but then I recognise not everyone has access to computers, and you have to accommodate everybody."
The chair of Business New England, Aileen MacDonald, said she hoped everyone would continue to focus on shopping locally now lockdown has ended.
"We had a board meeting via Zoom last night, and we're all very excited," Ms MacDonald said.
"But we are still not out of the woods yet, and we need to get everyone double vaxxed and complying with the orders so we can stay out of lockdown."
Ms MacDonald said the chamber had recently surveyed the impact of the pandemic on local business, and the end of lockdown won't mean an instant return to business as usual.
"Many who had an online presence did not suffer as much," she said.
"But it has affected businesses across the board, and we are not getting the tourists through that we would normally get, and they won't immediately return.
"We have to change our focus, so support local and shop local. If you have to go shopping do it in town. "
Resident's exuberant response to the end of lockdowns has resulted in many cafes and restaurants being fully booked for the weekend, with people keen to get out and celebrate with friends.
"Once the announcement was made on Thursday, everyone hit the phone and made bookings for Saturday night," Ms MacDonald said.
"I encourage everyone to go out but maybe choose a night or an afternoon you wouldn't normally go out to spread the business across the week."
New England Business is future-focused, Ms MacDonald said, working on a tourism campaign for when borders open and more local government areas come out of lockdown.
"We are working collaboratively with the council, and our campaign will depend on grants and different businesses, so we are planning to launch next year," Ms MacDonald said.
Yesterday, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall - who had been pushing heavily for communities in his electorate to be released from stay-at-home orders this weekend - said he hasn't "been this happy for months and months".
"It's brilliant," he said. "As I said a few days ago when I was wanting this to happen, this is, I think, a just reward for all our communities that have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to keep our region safe.
"Lockdown certainly served its purpose, but now it's time to get children back to school, get businesses up and running again and people getting back to some normality."
But he warned the region is not completely out of the woods yet, and there are still restrictions in place.
Until the state hits its 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets, if an LGA records a single case of COVID-19, it will go back into a 14-day lockdown.
Federal MP Barnaby Joyce said the people of New England were to be congratulated for maintaining vigilance against the COVID-19 virus.
"People want to circulate, meet up with friends and family and go shopping," Mr Joyce said.
"Wherever possible, we need to re-open shops and other businesses to get the economy moving again.
"Businesses have been brought to a standstill and employees prevented from earning an income.
"The lifting of lockdown limits will make a huge difference to individuals, families, employees, businesses and the economy in general," he said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: