Sydney Celebrates ‘Freedom Day’ After Nearly Four Months Of Covid Lockdown As Vaccination Rate Crosses 70%

By Siladitya Ray, Forbes Staff

Topline

Cafes, restaurants, gyms and hair salons in Sydney reopened for fully vaccinated customers on Monday after nearly four months of a Covid lockdown, as the state of New South Wales crossed its target of fully vaccinating over 70% of its population, a move that signals the start of Australia’s new strategy of living with the virus in areas where vaccination rates are high.

Customers line up to enter a store in the central business district after more than 100 days of lockdown to help contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, Monday. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Key Facts

New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters in the state capital Sydney that Monday was “freedom day” and the state was leading the nation out of the pandemic but acknowledged that “this will be a challenge.”

The move comes at a time when 74% of NSW’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Additional pandemic restrictions will be removed once the state hits the 80% vaccination benchmark, allowing NSW residents to fly abroad without restrictions for the first time since March last year.

On Monday, New South Wales reported 496 new Covid-19 cases, significantly below last month’s peaks of over 1,500 but Perrottet warned that infection rates will rise as Sydney residents return to work.

Despite concerns about another spike in cases, Perrottet said that infection and hospitalization rates in the state remained lower than what had been predicted by modeling.

The state’s border with neighboring Queensland will continue to remain shut as the north-western state only has a vaccination rate of 52% at the moment.

Crucial Quote

“Enjoy the moment, enjoy it with your family and friends,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sydney residents during a press conference. “Today is a day so many have been looking forward to - a day when things we take for granted, we will celebrate.”

Big Number

62.42%. That is the percentage of Australia’s eligible population—people over the age of 16—that has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 according to a tracker run by the Sydney Morning Herald. More than 82% have received at least one dose. Australia plans to begin easing restrictions once the country hits a 70% full vaccination rate followed by the removal of nearly all restrictions at 80%.

Key Background

Earlier this month, the Australian federal government said it will lift some curbs on international travel in November—more than a month ahead of schedule—allowing citizens and permanent residents to travel in and out of the country more easily. After imposing some of the harshest border control and lockdown measures in the world to stomp out Covid, the Morrison government began pivoting towards a “living with the virus” approach. Despite facing some resistance from local governments in virus-free regions the federal plan calls for removal of nearly all restrictions once 80% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Further Reading

Sydney opens to vaccinated after 100-plus days of lockdown (Associated Press)

'Freedom Day': Sydney reopens as Australia looks to live with COVID-19 (Reuters)

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