| 22 October 2021, Friday |

Sydney emerges from pandemic lockdown, beer in hand

After a more than 100-day lockdown, Sydney’s oldest pub reopened an hour early on Monday to welcome back its regulars, allowing COVID-19-vaccinated residents to enjoy new freedoms, including a morning pint at their favorite bar.

A handful of patrons packed one side of the bar at the Fortune of War, an almost two-century-old pub looking out towards Sydney’s principal ferry and cruise ship port in The Rocks precinct, shortly after doors opened at 9:00 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday).

“It’s the Aussie way of doing things. Come on down to the pub, grab a pint, and tell a story. They converse with the staff and with one another “”Says publican Steven Speed, motioning to the patrons seated on bar stools.”

No one knows when the Fortune of War was last forced to close for an extended period of time, but it was most likely during the Spanish Flu pandemic a century ago, according to Speed.

Australia is contemplating a staggered return to normal as the once-stuttering vaccine deployment gains traction, even as its largest cities deal with an outbreak of the highly virulent Delta form.

The state of New South Wales (NSW), whose capital is Sydney, loosened lockdown rules on Monday after reaching its 70 percent immunization objective for its adult population. When the state reaches the 80 percent and 90 percent marks, more limitations will be lifted, including international travel.

Despite the fact that, by global standards, Australia and New Zealand had just a small number of infections and fatalities during the epidemic, both countries have chosen cautious approaches to reopening.

Premier Dominic Perrottet of NSW called Monday “freedom day,” but warned that, as has been the case elsewhere, illnesses would rise after reopening.

Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, is preparing to open for summer, authorities said on Monday, which starts in December.

Barbers and hair salons were particularly busy on Monday after a near four-month lockdown, with many businesses inundated with bookings and long queues outside, television footage and social media images showed.

Samo Vojsk, who has been coming to the Fortune of War since 1981 and was there on Monday morning, said the pub offered an escape from the unrelenting pandemic.

“We come here to forget that sort of thing,” Vojsk said.

“You miss the ambiance of the pub; it’s not the same drinking at home.”

Brian Hobbs O’Mara, originally from Dublin, said the first beer back at his favourite bar tasted “tremendous”.

“I’ve been looking forward to this comfort for 108 days,” he said.