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COVID-19 cases rise in Australia's Victoria as regions exit lockdown

COVID-19 cases rise in Australia's Victoria as regions exit lockdown

FILE PHOTO: A lone man wearing a protective face mask sits at an unusually quiet State Library on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

SYDNEY: Australia's Victoria state reported its biggest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases this year, the majority in Melbourne, as most other regions in the state exited lockdown on Friday (Sep 10).

Officials have announced plans to bring Melbourne and Sydney out of extended lockdowns in coming weeks, despite infections continuing to rise in both of the country's two biggest cities.

The shift to a strategy of living with, rather than suppressing, the virus after hitting national vaccine coverage of 70 to 80 per cent is part of a four-stage national reopening plan unveiled by the federal government in July. The national vaccination rate for adults is currently at around 40 per cent.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, whose state on Friday reported 334 new locally acquired cases and one death, has said lockdown restrictions in Melbourne will not be eased until 70 per cent of the adult population has received at least one vaccine dose, which is expected around Sep 23.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday said Sydney's businesses could reopen once 70 per cent of the state's adult population is fully vaccinated, a target due to be reached around the middle of October.

Berejiklian on Friday denied going against the advice of the state's health officials who, according to local media reports, wanted restrictions to ease only when vaccination levels topped 80 per cent.

"All along this journey it has always been balancing the health risks with mental health and ability to move freely and live with COVID," Berejiklian told Nine News. "We are definitely in a transition phase and it is going to be challenging."

Australia's capital, Canberra, has also been subjected to lockdown measures because of the Delta variant outbreak but most other cities largely enjoy a COVID-free life.

Australia's total infection numbers stand at 68,400 cases, including 1,067 deaths.

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Source: Reuters/dv

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