Melbourne will exit months of COVID-19 lockdown next week, helped by an increasingly expected vaccine, Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday, ahead of schedule, even though daily infections hit a record on the same day .
In the worst day of the delta variant coronavirus outbreak that began in early August, Victoria on Thursday reported 2,297 new cases, up 1,571 a day earlier and the highest for any Australian state or territory since the pandemic began. Eleven people died, bringing the total toll in the latest outbreak to 125.
But the increase comes even as Victoria nears the 70% threshold for double-dose vaccination among eligible adults – the level at which officials have promised to end strict stay-at-home restrictions. The target was originally expected to be met on October 26, and the vaccination level was 62% as of Thursday.
“We will distribute the road map… you get vaccinated and we will open up and do what I say,” Victoria Premier Andrews said during a media briefing in the state capital Melbourne.
Most of the new cases were detected in Melbourne, but the city’s night curfew will also be lifted while businesses can reopen with strict social distancing rules, according to the roadmap. More restrictions will be eased when vaccination levels reach 80% and 90%.
Sydney, where the first case was reported in mid-June, continued to decline in new cases. Daily infections in New South Wales dropped to 406 on Thursday, the majority in Sydney, down from the state’s pandemic high of 1,599 in early September.
The city came out of a more than 100-day lockdown earlier this week, and Sydney could enjoy more freedom from Monday – beating forecasts by a week – because of the number of fully vaccinated people over the age of 16. The ratio is expected to be above 80% by the end of this week.
As Sydney and Melbourne aim to begin living with COVID-19, some virus-free states have flagged that they may delay their reopening plans even after higher vaccinations, fearing Hospitals could be affected due to the outbreak.
High vaccination coverage among the most vulnerable populations has helped Australia keep its death rate from delta flare-ups as low as last year’s outbreaks. Still, Delta accounts for about 77% of the country’s 136,000 cases. The total deaths since the start of the pandemic are 1,496.
Australia’s medical regulator has allowed Pfizer to submit an application to allow children ages five to 11 to be vaccinated with its COVID-19 vaccine, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)