- Schools reopen in Sydney after almost 4 months
- Melbourne will come out of lockdown on Friday
- Queensland reopens state borders for the Christmas holidays
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Thousands of children returned to school in Sydney on Monday, ending months of homeschooling, as Australia’s largest city eased restrictions on the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) thanks to a wave of vaccinations.
Masks will no longer be mandatory in offices and larger groups will be allowed inside and outside after New South Wales, home to Sydney, achieves 80% double vaccination coverage among people aged 16 and over over the weekend.
The latest in a series of planned facilities is part of a shift in Australia’s largest city’s strategy to deal with the virus, although officials have warned it will bring in more COVID-19 cases.
“This is not over yet,” Prime Minister Dominique Beirut said on Monday, calling on people to abide by the remaining health regulations. “There is a long journey to go.”
Stores, gyms and bars may allow more vaccinated users, nightclubs can reopen to serve drinks to seated customers, and restrictions on the number of guests at weddings have been lifted. But everyone should follow social distancing measures.
Returning to class on Monday was great, as the young and old – those in kindergarten, first and second year – are back with a break next week.
NSW’s 265 cases were the smallest one-day increase in 10 weeks, far from September’s high of 1,599.
Neighboring Victoria recorded 1,903 new cases, up from 1,838 the day before. The capital, Melbourne, is on its way out of lockdown on Friday as full vaccination levels approach 70%.
Australian media said the city has spent about nine months under strict stay-at-home orders since March 2020, the longest in the world. Read more
Authorities in northeastern Queensland, which is free of COVID-19, said quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated residents of Sydney and Melbourne will start from December 17, when the state’s full vaccination rate is expected to reach 80%.
“This is good news for the families who will gather at Christmas,” said state Premier Anastasia Balachuk.
Both cities have been hot spots for the virus outbreak in Australia.
Fully vaccinated individuals can travel to Queensland when the vaccination level reaches 70%, but must be isolated at home for two weeks.
As states begin to ease restrictions, the federal government said it will roll out the vaccination passport for international travel starting Tuesday, a critical step in its plan to allow citizens to travel abroad starting next month.
And authorities said last week that international travelers, who are initially only citizens and permanent residents, may be vaccinated upon entering Sydney from November 1. Read more.
With 145,000 infections and 1,543 deaths, Australia’s exposure to the coronavirus has been relatively low.
(Report) Ringo Jose and the Central Screens. Editing by Jane Wardle and Clarence Fernandez
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