Upbeat Sydneysiders were emerging from nearly four months of “blood, sweat and no beer” early Monday after a lengthy coronavirus lockdown was lifted in Australia’s largest city.
Sydney’s more than five million residents have been subjected to a 106-day lockdown designed to limit the march of the highly permeable delta variant.
With new infections now falling – the state of New South Wales reported 477 cases on Sunday – and more than 70 percent of 16 double vaccinations were done, Sydney was dusting off the cobwebs.
Some locations – including some bars and slot machine rooms – are planned to be opened to vaccinated customers at 12:01 a.m. local time.
“Be the first to get a cold schooner, and the first to catch up with friends,” said the owners of East in the city’s famed Bondi neighborhood.
Hairdressers will be among the businesses that open their doors later in the day, though many have been booked for weeks to come by customers with shaggy hair.
Since June, shops, schools, salons and offices have been closed for non-essential workers and unprecedented restrictions on personal liberty have been imposed.
Everything was banned from traveling more than five kilometers from home, visiting family, playing squash, browsing supermarkets to attending funerals.
“Very few countries have taken as drastic or extreme approaches to managing COVID as Australia,” Tim Southfomasen, an academic and former Australian race discrimination commissioner, told AFP.
There will still be limits on mass gatherings and international borders and schools will not open fully for a few weeks now.
But otherwise daily life will seem normal.
‘you’ve earned it’
For most of the pandemic, Australia successfully suppressed infections through border closures, lockdowns and aggressive testing and tracing.
But the Delta version paid off any dreams of “Covid-zero”, at least in the biggest cities of Melbourne and Sydney, which are now moving to “living with Covid”.
“It’s a big day for our state,” New South Wales recently opined Conservative Premier Dominic Perrot.
After “100 days of blood, sweat and no beer”, he said, “you’ve earned it.”
But despite the celebratory mood, concerns remain about what will happen again.
Perrott encouraged patrons to treat employees with kindness, fearing that a ban without vaccinations could lead to protests and confrontations.
There are also fears that reopening will inevitably lead to an influx of new infections.
The Australian Medical Association criticized Perrot this week after he appeared to shift focus from health to economic recovery.
“The AMA supports a gradual opening up of the economy and easing of restrictions, but it is important to observe the impact of each stage on transmission and case numbers,” the doctors’ body said.
“Otherwise New South Wales may still see hospitals completely overwhelmed despite high vaccination rates.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)