Australian authorities yesterday announced plans to gradually reopen locked-down Sydney, unveiling a two-tiered system that would give residents inoculated for COVID-19 more freedoms than their unvaccinated neighbors for several weeks.
Movement restrictions across New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state and home to Sydney, are to be lifted gradually between Oct. 11 and Dec. 1 as vaccination rates push through 70 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent.
However, people who are not fully inoculated would be barred from joining the vaccinated to resume community sports, dining out, shopping and other activities until the final date.
“Unlike most cases in the world, if you are not vaccinated you will have to wait at least four or five weeks ... in order to participate in things that the rest of us can participate in,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a televised briefing. “If you want to be able to have a meal with friends and welcome people in your home, you have to get vaccinated.”
Berejiklian did not detail how the block on activity by the unvaccinated would be enforced.
Sydney, along with Melbourne and Canberra, has been in lockdown for several weeks, with the three cities bearing the brunt of a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has taken national case numbers to 99,032 — 68 percent recorded since mid-June.
The three states — New South Wales, Victoria and Australian Capital Territory — logged just over 1,500 cases yesterday, most in New South Wales and Victoria.
At 1,245 deaths, the national fatality rate has slowed due to higher vaccination levels among the most vulnerable.
The outbreak fueled by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has divided state and territory leaders, with some presiding over virus-free parts of the nation indicating that they would defy a federal plan to reopen internal borders once the adult population reaches 80 percent vaccinated, expected late next month.
In New South Wales, where about 60 percent of people aged 16 and over are fully inoculated, restaurants, pubs, retail stores, gyms and indoor recreation facilities can reopen on Oct. 11 — days after the state is expected to reach 70 percent vaccinated — with capacity limits.
Once 80 percent vaccinated is achieved, expected a few weeks later, state-wide travel would be allowed. Limits on people attending funerals and weddings would be lifted and the number of vaccinated people allowed to gather in a home would double to 10.
From Dec. 1, there would be no limits on home and informal outdoor gatherings. Capacity limits would remain at indoor venues, but masks would no longer required. Businesses can impose their own rules regarding customer vaccination.
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