Sydney lifts Covid curfews as case numbers stabilise

SYDNEY: Officials in Sydney decided to lift curfews for coronavirus outbreaks on Wednesday, as the number of infections stabilized and vaccination rates increased.
Almost three months after activity in Australia’s largest city was frozen by lockdown orders, state officials announced an easing of restrictions for the worst-affected areas.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for virus hot spots would be lifted from Wednesday, in what the Sydneysiders hope to report on start of the end of a long lock.
Infection rates appear to have peaked at around 1,300 per day and 80% of people in Australia’s most populous state have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We have seen stabilization in recent days,” Prime Minister Berejiklian said, while urging residents to remain vigilant and to respect stay-at-home orders.
“We don’t want to see this trend go in the wrong direction.”
Most Sydney residents can only leave their homes to buy food, exercise outdoors, or seek medical treatment.
Schools, bars, restaurants and offices have been closed since the end of June and residents are not allowed more than five kilometers (three miles) from their homes.
Berejiklian said many restrictions will be lifted when 70% of residents are fully immunized, sometime in October.
“We know it’s been a struggle, but it’s only a few weeks until we get to 70% double dose,” she said.
An 18-month ban on Australians from leaving the country is set to expire in mid-December, suggesting international travel may also resume.
Researchers at the Burnet Institute said this week that it appeared that the hot spot restrictions introduced in late August had “helped stop the increase in cases.”
But they warned that restrictions would still be needed to stem the outbreaks.
Authorities said the reopening would only apply to those who are fully vaccinated.
“It’s black and white. If you’re not vaccinated, you can’t go to a restaurant. You can’t go to a cafe,” Berejiklian said.
During much of the pandemic, Australia has seen some of the lowest infection rates in the world as it pursued a ‘zero Covid’ policy – suppressing the spread of the virus with contact tracing, testing and forty aggressive.
The fast-spreading Delta variant forced the abandonment of this strategy in favor of an increase in once glacial vaccination rates.
Berejiklian warned that with 20 percent of people still completely unvaccinated, hospitalizations and deaths are likely to increase even as Sydney reopens.
“The next two months will be the most pleasant to come out of confinement but also the most difficult,” she said.
“We will have to balance the risks every day between putting pressure on the hospital system, but also allowing people to live freely and allowing businesses to restart.”

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