| 28 September 2022, Wednesday |

Melbourne to ease world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns as vaccinations rise

Officials in Melbourne, which has spent more time under COVID-19 lockdowns than any other city in the world, stated on Sunday that the stay-at-home restrictions will be lifted this week.

Since March 2020, the Australian city of 5 million people has been under six lockdowns totaling 262 days, or nearly nine months, when some limitations will be eased on Friday.

According to Australian and other media reports, this is the world’s longest lockdown, surpassing Buenos Aires’ 234-day siege.

While coronavirus cases keep rising in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, the state’s double-vaccination rate is set to reach 70% this week, allowing for the ease in restrictions.

“Today is a great day,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews in announcing the lockdown. “Today is a day when Victorians can be proud of what they have achieved.”

When hospitality venues and some businesses reopen, their capacity will remain heavily restricted. More easing, including the reopening of many retailers, will come once 80% of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated – estimated by Nov. 5 at the latest.

On Sunday, Victoria recorded 1,838 new coronavirus cases and seven deaths. Neighboring New South Wales, which emerged last week from a 100-day lockdown, reported 301 cases and 10 deaths. Eighty percent of the state’s people have been fully vaccinated.

Australia, once a champion of a COVID-zero strategy of managing the pandemic, has been moving towards living with the virus through extensive vaccinations, as the Delta variant has proven too transmissible to suppress.

Once 80 percent of the population has been completely vaccinated, the new technique renders lockdowns exceedingly unlikely. Around 68 percent of eligible Australians have been fully immunised as of the weekend.

Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand’s South Island, where there is no outbreak, will resume on Wednesday, according to Australian health experts. The government is also in talks with Singapore about resuming travel between the two nations for those who have received all of their vaccines.

Despite a recent increase in instances, Australia’s coronavirus counts are low in comparison to many other industrialized countries, with little over 143,000 cases and 1,530 deaths in the last year.

Neighboring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with COVID-19 by accelerating inoculations, reported 51 new cases on Sunday, 47 of them in the largest city Auckland, which has been in a lockdown since mid-August.

New Zealand vaccinated more than 2.5 percent of its population on Saturday as part of a government-led mass immunization campaign.

  • Reuters