Sydney was set to reopen after months in lockdown, officials said on Sunday, with businesses preparing to welcome fully vaccinated residents the following day.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 477 new coronavirus cases and six deaths on Sunday, in an outbreak that has kept five million people in state capital Sydney in a lockdown for 100 days.
But as the state has met the threshold of 70 per cent of its people fully vaccinated, New South Wales was ready to ease some restrictions and reopen many businesses, said state Premier Dominic Perrottet.
“Well, it is a big day for our state and to everyone across New South Wales; you have earned it. It has been 100 days of blood, sweat and no beers but we have got it and we are back in action tomorrow,” Perrottet said.
“It has been a very difficult time for the people of our state, over 100 days of people making enormous sacrifices, not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones, not being able to get married, businesses closed, people out of work.”
Owners of restaurants and other public venues are now scrambling to arrange supplies and staffing.
Many social distancing restrictions, however, and limits on public gathering will remain for weeks, Perrottet said.
In neighbouring Victoria state, which went into lockdown in early August, about a month after New South Wales, pandemic restrictions are expected to ease in late October, once the two-dose vaccination rate hits 70 per cent.
Talking to reporters in the state capital Melbourne on Sunday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that on Nov. 2, 10,000 fans will be allowed to attend the Melbourne Cup thoroughbred horse race “under a whole range of zoning requirements” as part of a “vaccinated economy” trial.
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What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 237.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
In Europe, riot police clashed with dozens of people who gathered in the streets of Rome on Saturday night to protest against the government’s new COVID-19 “green passes.”
The program in Italy is set to take effect on Oct. 15 and requires people to have either had a COVID-19 vaccine or recent negative test to access public and private workplaces.
Both employees and employers risk fines if they don’t comply. Workers in the public sector can be suspended if they show up five times without a green pass.
In the Americas, Brazil has topped 600,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the second-highest global toll behind the United States.
In Asia, Malaysians who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to resume domestic and overseas travel from Monday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told a news conference on Sunday.
The decision was made because 90 per cent of the country’s adult population are now fully inoculated, he said.
In Africa, Moderna plans to invest up to $500 million US to build a factory in Africa to make up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines each year, including its COVID-19 shot, as pressure grows on the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture drugs on the continent.