Melbourne is expected to exit months of COVID-19 lockdown next week, helped by a sudden surge in vaccine uptake, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday.
The exit is ahead of schedule, although daily infections hit a record the same day.
In the worst day of an outbreak involving the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which began in early August, Victoria logged 2,297 new cases, up from 1,571 the day before and the highest for any Australian state or territory since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Eleven people died, bringing the total in the latest outbreak to 125.
However, the surge comes as Victoria also nears the 70 percent threshold for double-dose vaccination among eligible adults — the level at which state authorities promised to end strict stay-at-home restrictions. That target was originally expected to be met on Oct. 26. The vaccination rate was 62 percent as of yesterday.
“We will deliver the [reopening] road map... You get vaccinated, and we will open up, and I do what I say,” Andrews told a media briefing in Melbourne.
Most new cases were detected in Melbourne, but the city’s night curfew would be lifted, while businesses can conditionally reopen, according to the roadmap.
More curbs would be relaxed when vaccination levels reach 80 percent and 90 percent.
Sydney, where Australia’s first Delta case was detected in June, continued a downward trend in new cases. Daily infections in New South Wales eased to 406 yesterday, well down from the state’s pandemic high of 1,599 early last month.
The city came out of a lockdown of more than 100 days earlier this week, and Sydney might enjoy more freedoms from Monday — beating forecasts by a week — as the proportion of fully vaccinated people aged 16 or older is expected to top 80 percent this weekend.
As Sydney and Melbourne aim to begin to live with COVID-19, some virus-free Australian states have indicated that they might delay their reopening plans even after higher vaccination rates are reached, citing fears that outbreaks could overwhelm hospitals.
Higher inoculation coverage among the most vulnerable populations has helped Australia keep its death rate from the Delta flare-up lower than during outbreaks last year. Still, the Delta variant accounted for about 77 percent of the country’s 136,000 cases. Total deaths stand at 1,496 since the pandemic began.
Australian Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt yesterday said that Australia’s medical regulator has allowed Pfizer to submit an application to allow five to 11-year-olds to be vaccinated with its COVID-19 vaccine.
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