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Melbourne, which has spent more time under COVID-19 lockdowns than any other city in the world, is set to lift its stay-at-home orders this week, officials said on Sunday.
By Friday, when some curbs will be lifted, the Australian city of five million people will have been under six lockdowns totalling 262 days, or nearly nine months, since March 2020.
Australian and other media say this is the longest in the world, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires.
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 per cent this week, allowing for the ease in restrictions.
“Today is a great day,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said as he announced the end of the lockdowns. “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 per cent 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. Neighbouring New South Wales, which emerged last week from a 100-day lockdown, reported 301 cases and 10 deaths. Eighty per cent 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 toward living with the virus through extensive vaccinations, as the delta variant has proven too transmissible to suppress.
The new strategy makes lockdowns highly unlikely once 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. As of the weekend, around 68 per cent of eligible Australians have been fully inoculated.
Australia’s health officials said on Sunday that quarantine-free travel from New Zealand’s South Island, where there is no outbreak, will resume on Wednesday. The government is also in discussions with Singapore about reopening travel between the two countries for the fully vaccinated.
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 240.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand reported 51 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, 47 of them in the largest city Auckland, which has been in a lockdown since mid-August. On Saturday, New Zealand vaccinated more than 2.5 per cent of its people as part of a government-led mass vaccination drive.
In Europe, Russia is reporting its largest daily number of new coronavirus infections, more than 70 per cent up on the number a month ago, as the country faces a sustained rise in cases.
The national coronavirus task force on Sunday said 34,303 new infections were recorded in the previous day, compared with the 20,174 reported Sept. 19.
The death toll of 999 was barely lower than the record 1,002 deaths reported on Saturday.
In Africa, Zimbabwe will bar unvaccinated government workers from reporting for duty from Monday as part of efforts to fight COVID-19. On Sept. 14, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet ordered all government workers to get vaccinated, giving them a month to comply. Those barred from work will not get paid, according to the cabinet directive.
Although the country was one of the first on the continent to vaccinate against COVID-19, fewer than 2.5 million people out of its 15 million population have been fully vaccinated.
In Asia, Sri Lankan authorities are allowing the reopening of cinemas and restaurants and also permitting wedding receptions as a part of the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions.
Cinemas will be open from next week, but with only 25 per cent occupancy. Restaurants will be allowed to cater to a maximum 50 customers at a time. Wedding receptions are also permitted, but with a maximum of 50 guests.
Banks can accommodate only five clients at a time while gymnasiums can have a maximum of 10.