Sydney’s cafes, gyms and restaurants welcomed fully vaccinated customers on Monday after nearly four months of lockdown, as Australia aims to start living with the coronavirus and gradually reopen with high vaccination rates. have to open.
Some pubs in Australia’s largest city Sydney opened at 12:01 am (1301 GMT Sunday) and friends and families huddled together for midnight beer, television footage and social media images.
“I look at it as a day of independence, it’s an independence day,” New South Wales (NSW) state premier Dominic Perrott told reporters in the state capital Sydney. “We are leading the country through this pandemic but it will be a challenge.”
Perrot warned that infections will rise after reopening, and virus-free states such as Western Australia and Queensland are looking at what is going to live with COVID-19 amid concerns the health system could be overwhelmed .
While NSW has a double-dose vaccination rate of 74% for people over 16, in neighboring Queensland, whose borders remain closed to Sydney-siders, the rate is only 52% and the state government is rapidly trying to control any outbreaks. Following an elimination strategy with the lockdown. .
Perrot has announced an end to the lockdown in NSW and has strong support for reopening in Sydney, whose more than 5 million residents faced severe restrictions since mid-June following an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.
The outbreak has since spread to Melbourne and Canberra, forcing lockdowns in those cities, even as case numbers in NSW have plummeted.
New South Wales reported 496 new locally acquired cases on Monday, down from its peak the previous month, while Victoria recorded 1,612 new infections, its lowest in five days.
Under relaxed rules for NSW, retail stores and restaurants reopened with reduced capacity, and those with more vaccinations were allowed to gather in homes and attend weddings and funerals.
The state aims to hit an 80% vaccine rate by the end of October, when more restrictions will be eased. But those who do not get vaccinated will have to stay at home till December 1.
Steven Speed, publicist for Sydney’s oldest pub, Fortune of War, told Reuters he hoped it was the last lockdown after 18 months of restrictions.
“The cost of just closing and opening, closing and opening – they are huge,” said Speed, whose most loyal customers returned for the first post-lockdown beer with friends from 9:00 a.m. on Monday.
Kyle Raggio, owner of KR Performance Gym in the Sydney suburb of Randwick, said Australia can no longer rely on rolling lockdowns to combat the virus.
“I hope we can deal with what’s happening now, looking at the rest of the world, hopefully we can stay open and do our job,” Raggio said on Monday morning. Welcome your customers to the training facility.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Sydney residents to “enjoy the moment”.
“Today is a day that many people have been waiting for – a day when we take things lightly, we will celebrate,” he said.
Morrison, who will have to call an election before next May, has been pressured to press all states to reopen borders to bolster the economy and to reunite families separated by state borders by Christmas. allow to add. Some states with few cases have not said when they will reopen their borders.
With the vaccine rollout gaining momentum, Australia plans to return to normal, allowing fully vaccinated residents to enter and leave the country freely from November, although New South Wales has postponed those dates. Planned to move forward.
Australia closed its international borders in March 2020, helping to keep its coronavirus numbers relatively low, with 130,000 cases and 1,448 deaths.
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