Sydney residents come out of almost four months of lockdown

The people of Sydney see the end of the tunnel. They come out this Monday from nearly four months of strict confinement, decreed in Australia’s largest city to block the Covid-19 epidemic.

In this city of five million inhabitants, containment was decided in the summer to prevent the spread of the Delta variant of the highly contagious coronavirus. It was lifted after 106 days of restrictions, in view of the drop in contamination – 477 cases recorded on Sunday in the state of New South Wales, the most populous in the country – and the advance of vaccination, with more than 70% of the population over the age of 16 fully vaccinated.

Limited travel within a 5 km radius

Some places open to the public, such as bars or games rooms, were to reopen at midnight for vaccinated customers. Hairdressers will reopen their doors on Monday with an already full appointment book.

Since June, stores, schools and businesses have been closed for so-called “non-essential” activities. Travel was limited to five kilometers from the home and it was not possible to visit relatives, participate in sports, go shopping or attend a funeral.

“Few countries have adopted such a strict, if not extreme, approach in their management of Covid as Australia,” Tim Soutphommasane, an academic and former Australian commissioner for discrimination, told AFP.

Restrictions will last for a few weeks on gatherings and travel abroad, as well as the complete reopening of schools.

“100 days of blood, sweat and beer”

Largely spared during the first months of the pandemic thanks to a “zero-Covid” strategy, the closure of its borders and a massive screening policy, Australia suffered a winter wave linked to the spread of the Delta variant, which forced the country’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, to impose lockdown for several months.

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“This is a great day for our state,” said Dominic Perrottet, recently appointed Conservative Prime Minister of New South Wales. After “100 days of blood, sweat and beer,” he added, “you deserve it”.

Dominic Perrottet encouraged customers to treat staff with kindness, fearing tensions over banning unvaccinated people in some facilities.

A rebound in contamination is feared

A rebound in contamination is also feared. The Australian Medical Association has said it supports “the gradual opening of the economy and the easing of restrictions”, however, deeming “essential to observe the impact of each stage on the transmission and the number of cases”.

“Otherwise, New South Wales could still see hospitals become completely overwhelmed despite high vaccination rates,” the health body added.

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