More curbs set to be eased in Australia's Victoria state

MELBOURNE: The world's most locked-down city, which emerged from its latest spate of Covid-19 restrictions last Friday, will have more curbs eased this week when the full vaccination rate in Australia's Victoria state reaches 80 per cent, officials said yesterday.

Melbourne, home to about five million people, endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of stay-at-home restrictions during six lockdowns since March last year, longer than the 234-day continuous lockdown in Buenos Aires.

Starting on Friday, when 80 per cent of people across Victoria - of which Melbourne is the capital - are expected to be fully vaccinated, travel throughout the state will be allowed and masks will no longer be required outdoors.

"There's a fundamental agreement that we have reached with the Victorian community, we asked you to get vaccinated, you have done that in record time and record numbers," state Premier Daniel Andrews said.

With a once-sputtering vaccine rollout now at full speed, the authorities across Australia no longer plan to rely on extended lockdowns to suppress the virus. Victoria recorded 1,935 new cases and 11 deaths yesterday.

As the state moves towards a "vaccinated economy" in which only fully inoculated people will be allowed into venues, a 90 per cent rate is expected around Nov 24, Mr Andrews said.

He wanted to see crowds in excess of 80,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test on Dec 26 between Australia and England.

"It's our approach to try and achieve life as close to normal as possible," Mr Andrews said.

New South Wales state, whose capital Sydney spent 100 days in a lockdown that ended earlier this month, recorded 296 new cases and four deaths.

Nearly 85 per cent of that state's population have been fully vaccinated. - REUTERS