Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, will emerge from a COVID-19 tight lockdown on Thursday night, according to Victoria state police, while some limitations on travel and meetings would likely last another week.
Melbourne’s five million residents will have more freedom to go outside starting at 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT) on Thursday, after two weeks of stringent lockdown that ordered them to stay at home except for required business.
Officials urged people must stay within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of their houses in order to prevent transmission throughout the forthcoming long weekend. House gatherings will also be prohibited, and masks will be required indoors.
“This is a good day,” Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“But we know this isn’t over yet and until we have widespread vaccination across Victoria and the country, the virus will still be with us.”
Merlino said further easing of restrictions for Melbourne could happen within a week barring any spike in cases.
Australia has effectively reined in COVID-19, recording just over 30,200 cases and 910 deaths, due to speedy tracing systems, snap lockdowns and strict social distancing rules.
Since the pandemic began, Victoria has had four lockdowns, the biggest of which lasted more than 100 days late last year, and the state has witnessed more than 800 deaths, accounting for 90 percent of the national toll.
Victoria reported only one new locally acquired COVID-19 case on Wednesday, the lowest increase in more than two weeks, compared to two the day before.
On most days of the lockdown, daily cases remained in the single digits, and they were all connected to a highly contagious Delta virus subtype discovered among patients late last week, raising fears of an infection spike.