The easing of restrictions means that, as of Friday, more than half of Australia’s nearly 26 million population is living with the virus, while officials in the rest of the country are slashing vaccination rates while controlling borders to keep it out. Emphasis on increasing.
The division has made a two-speed path out of the pandemic, led by states that have faced the highest toll, frustrating the federal government’s efforts to reopen the entire country to foreign arrivals for the first time in nearly two years. .
Victoria’s 6.7 million residents can now leave their homes for any reason, although they must show proof of full vaccination to enter public places. Restaurants can cater to a limited number of diners indoors, students are back in schools, and there is no longer a 9 p.m. curfew in Melbourne.
However, stores selling non-essential items will not open until double immunization is done in 80% of the state and masks are required in and out.
Still, the end of the lockdown is a major relief for Melbourne residents, who have spent more than 260 days confined to their homes, forbidden to leave except to buy groceries or other essentials, mostly since July. In two long halves till October, 2020 and this year from August to October.
The latest lockdown was triggered by the outbreak of the highly-contagious Covid-19 delta variant. As the doors opened on Friday, the state reported 2,189 new cases – and as people start moving around, the number of those daily cases is expected to continue to rise.
But Victoria’s reopening highlights a stark divide in Australia. While more than half the country is highly vaccinated and living with the virus, another 11 million people are living in states with low vaccination rates that are largely free of Covid-19.
It is not clear how long the two Australians can live comfortably with each other. Part of the problem is that, outside hotspots, there is little need for residents to get vaccinated.
Currently, the vaccination rate for the covid affected southeastern states is far higher than the rest of the country. For example, more than 95% of people in the ACT have taken their first dose, but that figure drops to 57% in Covid-free Western Australia.
At the current pace of vaccination, Western Australia and other largely Covid-free states are not expected to achieve their 80% double-dose target for weeks.
Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk described the infection as a “wake-up call” and warned residents that time was running out to get doses.
Infection can be ‘challenging’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday acknowledged there were “concerns about Covid” in some parts of the country, but said there was more reason to get vaccinated.
“Vaccination gives confidence to move forward,” he said.
Under the national plan, the country’s borders will reopen when the double vaccination rate reaches 80%. On Friday, Victoria joined NSW in announcing the resumption of international arrivals from 1 November, requiring no hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.
Qantas also extended its planned flight departures for some international routes.
As of now, all flights depart from Sydney – the first Australian city to be diagnosed with Covid – on 11 October. There, the number of daily cases is falling. On Thursday, the state recorded 345 new infections – well below the high in early September.
Restrictions were further eased on Monday when NSW reached its target of 80% of adults being fully vaccinated. The limit on the number of people allowed in private homes is raised to 20 and for the first time in months, residents can play community games.
The country is reopening – some parts are faster than others, and states are looking to each other – in and out – for guidance.
So far, Singapore is the only other example in the region of a community that has shifted from a policy of zero Covid to living with the virus. However, the city-state has struggled to strike a balance between easing restrictions and curbing the number of new infections from overwhelming hospitals.
Lawrence Wong, co-chair of Singapore’s Covid-19 Taskforce, said on Wednesday medical workers were “stretched and weary”.
“In the current situation, we are facing a considerable risk of overburdening the healthcare system,” he said.
“Whenever you see hundreds and maybe thousands of patients needing care … it puts a lot of pressure on our system,” he said.
Credit : www.cnn.com