Melbourne residents flocked to the city’s pubs, restaurants and hair salons in the early hours of Friday after the world’s most locked-down city emerged from the latest round of restrictions designed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Australia’s second largest city has faced restrictions of 262 days, or nearly nine months, during six separate lockdowns since March 2020, representing the longest cumulative lockdown for any city in the world. does.
Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires was under lockdown for 234 consecutive days last year.
In Melbourne, people were seen cheering and clapping from their balconies, while cars continuously honked horns at 11:59 pm on Thursday, when lockdown restrictions implemented since early August ended.
Several locations, including food outlets and even haircutters, opened at unusual times for the occasion.
Josh Meehan, owner of The Beard Man barbershop in Melbourne, told Reuters he is almost booked for next month and is encouraging customers to make appointments for Christmas.
“We all love to cut our hair and it’s a lovely feeling to be around people to be on the floor,” he said.
“I urge our customer base, make sure you book into your Christmas cut.”
Similar gleeful scenes were witnessed in Sydney, the country’s largest city, nearly two weeks ago, when authorities began easing restrictions as COVID-19 vaccination rates soared.
More than 70 percent of adults in Australia are now fully vaccinated and many residents plan to fly overseas again as international border restrictions begin to ease from November.
Qantas Airways Ltd said on Friday it would speed up plans to restart flights to several destinations and to scale up some aircraft amid “huge demand”.
“It’s an amazing day – Australia is ready for take-off,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said shortly after Qantas’ announcement.
Under Melbourne’s easing rules, restaurants and cafes can reopen indoors with up to 50 people – all of whom must be vaccinated – while up to 10 guests can gather in homes. Mask will be mandatory.
Australia had been virus-free for most of this year, until a third wave of infections from its deltaic version spread to the southeast since late June, leading to months of lockdowns in its largest cities.
The virus took a foothold in Sydney, Melbourne and the country’s capital, Canberra, while the rest of the country remains largely COVID-19 free.
Melbourne’s reopening will boost the country’s A$2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) economy, as recent lockdowns pushed it to the brink of a second recession in as many years.
Even with the Delta outbreak, Australia’s coronavirus numbers are still much lower than many comparable countries, with some 152,000 cases and 1,590 deaths.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)