SYDNEY – Sydney 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 through higher vaccinations and gradually reopen the country .
Some pubs in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, opened their doors at 12:01 a.m. (1301 GMT) on Monday as friends and family huddled for a midnight beer, television footage and social media images were shown. social.
“I think everyone across the state is very excited about what has been a long 100 days,” New South Wales State Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet told Seven News on Monday.
More than 5 million Sydney residents had been stuck in a tough blockade since June to contain the highly infectious Delta variant, which has since spread to Melbourne and the capital Canberra, forcing blockades there.
Perrottet urged Sydney residents to temper their enthusiasm to get out of the lockdown and warned that infections would increase after the reopening.
Under the relaxed rules, 10 fully vaccinated people can meet in homes, while 100 can attend weddings and funerals. Retail stores may open with reduced capacity as the state pushes for an 80% vaccine rate in late October, when more restrictions will be relaxed. But the unvaccinated must stay home until December 1.
New South Wales, home to Sydney, lifted the lockdown rules after reaching its target of 70% complete vaccination for its adult population, and virus-free states are looking at what it will be like to live with COVID-19.
With the vaccine launch gaining momentum, Australia plans a staggered return to normalcy, allowing fully vaccinated residents to enter and leave the country freely starting in November, although New South Wales plans to push those dates forward.
Australia closed its international borders in March 2020, which helped keep its coronavirus numbers relatively low, with 127,500 cases and 1,440 deaths. New South Wales reported 496 new locally acquired cases on Monday, the majority in Sydney, up from 477 on Sunday.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Peter Cooney)