Melbourne to further control COVID as Reuters approaches 80% vaccination rate

Reuters. File photo: A woman wearing a protective mask walks over a bridge in a secluded city during a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to prevent the spread of a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS / Sandra Sanders // File photo / file

By Lydia Kelly

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Melbourne, the world’s most locked-down city that emerged from its latest Covid-19 restrictions on Friday, will ease further bans next week as the state of Victoria reaches 80% full vaccination rates, officials said Sunday.

Home to nearly five million people, Melbourne has endured 262 days or about nine months of home stays during six lockdowns since March 2020, longer than the 234 days of continuous lockdowns in Buenos Aires.

Starting Friday, when 80% of people across Victoria – including the Melbourne capital – are expected to be fully vaccinated, Melbourneians will be able to travel across the state for free and will no longer need to wear a mask outside.

Premier Daniel Andrews said: “We have reached a basic agreement with the Victorian community. We have asked you to take the vaccine. You have done it in record time and in record numbers.”

Now with a spotting vaccine rollout at full speed, authorities across Australia no longer plan to rely on extended lockdowns to contain the virus. Victoria has 1,935 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths since Sunday.

As the state moves toward a “vaccinated economy” where only fully inoculated people will be allowed to enter the space, a 90% percent rate is expected around Nov. 24, Andrews said.

He added that he wanted to see a crowd of more than 80,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Dec. 26 Boxing Day Test between Australia and England.

“Our approach is to try and get life as close to normal as possible,” Andrews said.

A study by the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne found that Australians strongly support vaccination, showing in October that only 6.9% of the population is unwilling to be vaccinated.

The state of New South Wales, whose capital Sydney spent 100 days in a lockdown that ended earlier this month, recorded 296 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths. About 85% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated.

New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the virus through vaccination, had 80 cases on Sunday, all on the North Island. On Saturday, it reported the first COVID-19 infection in about a year on the country’s southern island.

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