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Australia Urges Caution as Some States Ease COVID Restrictions

FILE - Pedestrians cross a deserted street in Melbourne's central business district on May 11, 2020, as Australia starts to ease its COVID-19 restrictions.

The Australian state of Victoria is easing some of its COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as other jurisdictions wind back disease control measures.

Australia has had 6,900 confirmed coronavirus cases. More than 6,000 patients have recovered, but 97 people have died from the virus.

Victoria, the second most populous state, has some of Australia’s strictest lockdown measures.

The state government has announced “a small first step” in the relaxation of its COVID restrictions. Sport and recreation is allowed in groups of up to 10 people. Hiking, fishing and hunting will also be permitted from late Tuesday, but physical distancing and hygiene measures will stay in place. Larger groups are also allowed to attend weddings and funerals.

Residents can now have five people to their homes as guests.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews is urging a cautious approach.

“Whilst it is now allowed for you to go and have dinner or a visit with family and friends that doesn’t mean, and it is not an invitation, to be having a dinner party at every house, every night,” Andrews said.

Cafes and restaurants in Victoria will still be allowed only to sell take-out meals and drinks, while schools are expected to resume in the next four weeks.

Students in New South Wales state have already started a phased return to the classroom and will return initially to classes for one day a week.

On Friday, the Northern Territory will re-open bars. State authorities in South Australia are allowing regional travel and outdoor dining.

As the curbs are gradually eased, health authorities across Australia are warning that the greatest risk of more coronavirus infections is complacency.

Australia’s federal budget was due to be released Tuesday but was delayed because of the pandemic. It has been delayed until October, and the government is forecasting the coronavirus crisis has inflicted the biggest financial deficit in Australian history.