Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, will end a tough COVID-19 lockdown Thursday night as planned, Victoria state authorities said, although some travel and gathering restrictions would likely remain in place for another week.
After two weeks of strict lockdown that forced people to stay home except for essential business, Melbourne’s five million residents will have more freedom to go outside on Thursday, starting at 11:59 p.m. local time (1359 GMT).
However, people will have to stay within 25 km (15 miles) of their homes, officials said, in order to stop the broadcast over a long weekend ahead. In addition, there will be an absolute ban on gatherings and there will be a mask requirement indoors.
“This is a good day,” Victoria State Prime Minister James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“But we know this is not over yet, and until we have widespread vaccination in Victoria and across the country, the virus will still be with us.”
Merlino said further easing of restrictions on Melbourne could come within a week, unless there is an increase in cases.
Australia has effectively contained COVID-19, recording just over 30,200 cases and 910 deaths due to fast tracking systems, snap locks and strict social distancing rules.
Victoria has suffered four lockdowns since the pandemic began, the longest being more than 100 days late last year, and the state has recorded more than 800 deaths, 90% of the national toll.
On Wednesday, Victoria reported just one new locally acquired COVID-19 case, the lowest increase in more than two weeks, down from two the day before.
Daily cases have stayed in the single digits for most of the days of lockdown, and the cases have all been linked to that highly infectious delta virus variant Found among cases late last week raising concerns about a possible spike in infections.
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