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Marathon COVID-19 Lockdown Ends in Melbourne, Australia


FILE - A person walks past posters encouraging people to get vaccinated in Melbourne on Aug. 31, 2021.

A COVID-19 lockdown in the Australian city of Melbourne — officially the world’s most locked-down city — will end Thursday. Restrictions on leaving home will be lifted and a nighttime curfew will be scrapped because the state of Victoria has met its double dose vaccination target of 70%.

Since the pandemic began, the city of 5 million people has had six lockdowns. In total, it has spent more than 260 days under some of Australia’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions. It recently passed Buenos Aires in Argentina as the world’s most locked-down city.

But pubs, cafes and hairdressers will reopen when the lockdown ends just before midnight Thursday.

The new freedoms, however, apply only to the fully vaccinated.

As the lockdown ends, the state of Victoria has recorded one of its highest daily totals of new coronavirus cases, with 2,232 infections, and 12 deaths reported Thursday.

Nancy Baxter, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, says the community still needs to be cautious.

“We all need to use our heads when we are getting out of lockdown,” she said. “People deserve some freedoms. They should enjoy some new freedoms, but they do need to think about how much COVID is out there. In Melbourne right now, we have as much COVID as they have in all of Spain. So, you know, if people, kind of, do not feel comfortable doing all the things that, you know, their friends are inviting them to do, I think it is important for people not to feel like they are boring or they are afraid.”

Masks are still mandatory both indoors and outdoors for all people in Victoria state. Residents of Melbourne must continue to work from home if they can, and travel between the city and regional areas is only allowed with a permit.

More restrictions will end, including the reopening of most shops, when the state of Victoria’s vaccination rate hits 80%.

Lockdowns in Sydney and Canberra have also recently been lifted.

Australia has recorded 150,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,500 deaths since the pandemic began. More than 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

International travel — heavily restricted in Australia since its borders were closed to most foreign nationals in March 2020 — could resume as soon as November.

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