Australia’s two largest states further ease coronavirus curbs

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SYDNEY: Australia's two largest states will further ease public coronavirus restrictions at libraries, community centres and nightclubs, officials said yesterday despite recording increases in new infections.

New South Wales (NSW) said that from July 1, a 50-person limit on indoor venues such as restaurants and churches would be scrapped, so long as the venues observed a one person per 4 sq m rule.

Nightclubs and music festivals would also be allowed to operate from August if new cases remain low, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The state on Saturday reported the first locally transmitted Covid-19 case in weeks, and officials yesterday said there had been nine new infections since Friday.

In neighbouring Victoria, where pubs and other venues are currently limited to 20 people, indoor businesses will be allowed to have up to 50 seated patrons from June 22, said state premier Daniel Andrews.

All sports for children would resume, he said. Indoor sports centres and physical recreation spaces such as gyms will be allowed to host 20 people, with caps of up to 10 adults a group.

Strict lockdown restrictions and the closure of state and national borders have allowed Australia to curb the spread of the virus, with many parts of the country claiming to have eliminated the disease.

With only 102 deaths, lower than most other developed nations, the federal government has stepped up pressure on state and territory leaders to reopen internal borders, a step viewed as key to reviving the economy.

"We would love to open everything tomorrow. We can't do that. Because if we did we would be almost making it certain that we would have a second wave," Mr Andrews said.

As for Australia's international borders, they will remain closed until at least Sept 17. - REUTERS