Cheering Aussies have flocked to Sydney’s bars and restaurants to celebrate “freedom” from Covid restrictions – in sharp contrast to Melbourne, which is still in the midst of the world’s longest lockdown.
Belonged residents in Victoria’s capital have now had to stay at home under draconian orders for 253 days, dwarfing the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, which spent 234 days under restrictions.
But while Melburnians are now hoping for the rules to be relaxed before the Australian summer, millions in New South Wales have been set free and are celebrating their newfound freedom with a drink.
Pubs, cafes and retail stores reopened yesterday after double-rigging more than 70 percent of the state’s adult population. Covid cases in Sydney also fell to their lowest level in two months on Tuesday, while the total number of infections across the state fell to 360, which is a steady downward trend.
Melburnians, however, mostly remain stuck in their homes. Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has announced that it will not relax restrictions until the city’s own double vaccination rate hits 70 percent, which is not expected to happen until October 21.
The streets of Melbourne, Victoria remain empty and quiet as the state continues to be subject to strict lockdown measures
Sydneysiders are now making the most of their newfound freedoms by packing bars and restaurants after being released from lockdown on Monday
People made the most of their newfound freedoms in Sydney when they went straight to the pub after the restrictions were eased
According to the current rules, adults are only allowed to go outside for important purchases, authorized work, sports, care and medical appointments, while a curfew also applies between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
The current lockdown is the sixth Melbourne has enforced and the city will have spent 45 percent of the pandemic under the measures, by the time they’re expected to be eased later this month.
Most schools have been closed for months and there are already differences in performance between children in Victoria and their peers across the country.
The hospitality industry has been paralyzed as many bars and restaurants have closed their doors for good, while economists estimate about £ 500 million is lost for each week of lockdown.
Victoria’s first lockdown began March 30th through May 12th, when restrictions were relaxed to the envy of many countries around the world.
But it only lasted until July 8th when the state was thrown back into a 111-day lockdown by October 27th.
Since then, a short five-day fire lock has been held in February, followed by three longer stints, the current one of which has lasted since August 5th.
The measures have met violent backlash and protests from angry residents in Sydney and Melbourne who were unhappy about being incarcerated for so long, resulting in ugly clashes with police and multiple arrests
The state has recorded fewer than 1,000 deaths throughout the pandemic, but millions have been forced to give up their freedoms.
Current restrictions are likely to stay in place until at least October 26, when the state is expected to hit a 70 percent vaccination rate.
However, experts fear current infection rates will continue to rise, with Victoria seeing 3,000 new cases per day by the end of the month.
Almost 1,500 infections were registered in the state on Tuesday, the lowest in six days but still far higher than the 360 registered in New South Wales.
Victoria had a total of 55,936 infections while New South Wales recorded 69,552 cases during the pandemic.
The federal government has urged states to live with the virus if vaccination rates hit 70 percent, but some virus-free states said they might delay their reopening amid fears that a surge in cases will overwhelm their health systems.
Chaos in Melbourne: Anti-lockdown protesters faced police in September despite threats of US $ 5,500 fines
In New South Wales, gyms, cafes, restaurants, swimming pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians reopened on Monday
People queue to enter a Louis Vuitton store after home stay orders are placed across NSW
Indoor entertainment facilities such as cinemas, theaters, music halls, museums and galleries are now ready to reopen in Sydney
New South Wales hit the target last week, and at 12:01 p.m. Monday, home stay orders and shop closings ended after being implemented in June.
Going to the pub, eating out, getting their hair cut, watching a movie at the cinema, and going to the gym are some of the activities vaccinated residents can now do under the new regulations.
You can also see vaccinated family members and friends with up to 10 attendees for house gatherings and up to 30 outdoors under elevated caps announced by new Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet.
Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, non-essential retail stores, libraries and churches can operate under the rule of one person per 4 m², but nightclubs will remain closed.
Hairdressers and beauticians will also welcome vaccinated customers, but limited to a maximum of five in the premises at any one time.
Gyms can have up to 20 customers per class, while stadiums, racetracks, theme parks, and zoos can have up to 5,000 visitors.
The current lockdown is the sixth imposed on Melbourne and the city will have spent 45 percent of the pandemic under the measures
Health Department Assistant Secretary Kate Matson warned Victoria could hit 3,000 cases a day by the end of October
Indoor entertainment facilities such as cinemas, theaters, music halls, museums and galleries can be reopened with one person per 4 m² or 75 percent of fixed seating capacity.
Up to 100 vaccinated guests can attend a wedding or funeral, but must be seated while eating and drinking.
Vaccinated residents can travel more than 3 miles from their homes and travel anywhere in Sydney.
Domestic trips to regional areas remain prohibited for further weeks,
Outdoor masks are no longer mandatory, with the exception of hotel employees who are actively serving customers.
Further restrictions will be eased later this month once NSW hits 80 percent vaccination before life opens to unvaccinated people starting December 1.
The lockdowns have met public opposition, with persistent police enforcing the tough rules
The state has recorded fewer than 1,000 deaths throughout the pandemic, but millions have had to give up their freedoms
NSW police arrested 32 people in one day in September and issued 265 punishment violations notices to protesters across the state (pictured, police interrogating a man in Sydney Park).
But in Melbourne, those freedoms remain weeks away for all residents as the government struggles to contain the contagious Delta variant.
Health Department Assistant Secretary Kate Matson warned Victoria that 3,000 cases a day could be reached by the end of October.
“At this point, we are on the right track with hospital admissions and new cases,” she said.
“But I want to remind you that there is a center line and an upper and a lower band, and we’re still within that band.”
On Saturday, the state recorded 1,965 new cases, breaking the previous record three times in one week.
More than 86 percent of Victorians have now received at least one Covid shot and more than 58 percent are fully vaccinated.