| 26 February 2024, Monday |

Australia’s Melbourne to allow residents to leave city, despite stubborn virus outbreak

Despite a severe COVID-19 epidemic, Australia’s second largest metropolis will allow its five million inhabitants to go more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from home and will discontinue required mask wear outside on Friday.

Late last week, Melbourne ended a two-week tight lockdown, the city’s fourth since the epidemic began, following an outbreak that saw roughly 100 cases since May 24.

On Wednesday, Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters, “Victoria is at its best when we are all together… the state will come back together starting tomorrow night.”

Despite a minor increase in cases connected to a new cluster in a residential townhouse complex on Wednesday, Melbourne will gradually relax restrictions.

The number of individuals allowed in public gatherings will be expanded to 20, and the ban on gatherings at one’s house will be repealed. Gyms are permitted to open around Melbourne, but must adhere to rigorous distance regulations, and salon services are permitted to operate without masks during treatment.

On Wednesday, Victoria reported five new local cases, all linked to the townhouse cluster, bringing the total number of infections to eight. The data for Wednesday includes two cases that were announced on Tuesday but were recorded after the midnight deadline.

Officials deemed the new cases pose low risks of community spread as all have been linked to the existing outbreak but warned people to strictly follow the social distancing rules.

“It’s not over yet by any means,” Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said at a televised media conference. “Please don’t go back to behaviors that would suggest that there’s absolutely no risk.”

Australia has effectively combated previous outbreaks and kept its COVID-19 numbers reasonably low, with slightly under 30,300 cases and 910 deaths, thanks to quick contact tracing, snap lockdowns, and strong social distancing measures.

In Victoria, daily cases have remained in the single digits for the past nine days, while the virus has been effectively eradicated in other states and territories.

  • Reuters