Children in Australia’s largest city returned to in-person learning Monday as Sydney reached an important milestone in its fight against COVID-19.
Residents of New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, are slowly emerging from strict lockdown orders now that the rate of fully vaccinated people ages 16 and over has reached 80 percent, according to officials. Mandatory indoor mask wearing has been dropped, while restaurants, bars and gyms can now welcome fully vaccinated patrons.
New South Wales last week ended a mandatory quarantine for vaccinated international passengers who test negative for COVID-19 before flying to Sydney.
Meanwhile, residents in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, are expected to fully emerge from its latest lockdown period on Friday of this week as Victoria state nears its goal of 70 percent of its citizens 16 years old and older to be fully vaccinated.
Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 through aggressive lockdown efforts at the start of the pandemic, but a rapid outbreak of new infections in Sydney triggered by the delta outbreak back in June spread across Australia and forced authorities in several cities to impose strict lockdown orders.
The situation is far different in New Zealand’s biggest city of Auckland, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that it will remain under strict lockdowns for another two weeks despite a high vaccination rate.
Like Australia, New Zealand was among a small number of countries to drive coronavirus cases down to near zero last year because of border closures and snap lockdowns.But the small Pacific nation of five million people has been battling its own outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant since August that has frustrated efforts to stamp out transmission.
Prime Minister Ardern told reporters Monday in the capital Wellington that the curbs needed to stay in place to avoid a spike in new cases and hospitalizations as the numbers of fully vaccinated people continues to rise.
The prime minister has abandoned the long-held strategy of eliminating coronavirus, and has instead embraced a policy of living with the virus and managing its spread.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.