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Australia's Victoria state nears first COVID-19 vaccination goal

Australia's Victoria state nears first COVID-19 vaccination goal

A healthcare professional administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Dr Chris Quinn in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb 22, 2021. (File photo: Reuters/Sandra Sanders)

SYDNEY: Australia's Victoria state reported a second consecutive daily fall in new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday (Sep 15) as its first-dose vaccination rate neared the 70 per cent level where some curbs imposed to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant will be eased.

Authorities have promised to double the travel limit for 5 million residents in locked-down Melbourne, the state capital, to 10km and allow an extra hour of outdoor exercise when the state hits that inoculation target.

With around 68 per cent of the state's adults having received a first vaccine dose, it is likely to reach 70 per cent this week as new supplies are rolled out, about a week ahead of schedule.

Victoria reported 423 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, down from 445 on Tuesday, and two new deaths.

Australia is struggling to quell a third wave of infections that has hit its two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and the capital Canberra, forcing nearly half the country's 25 million people into strict stay-at-home restrictions.

Sydney, the epicentre of the Delta outbreak, recorded its lowest case numbers in nearly two weeks on Tuesday, although authorities said that it was still unclear if infections had peaked.

Sydney and Melbourne have shifted their focus to rapid vaccinations to begin relaxing restrictions, moving away from an earlier "zero COVID-19" strategy.

A four-stage national reopening plan unveiled by the federal government in July urges states and territories to live with the virus once vaccinations cover 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the adult population. Around 43 per cent of adults have been fully vaccinated nationally.

Despite the recent Delta outbreaks, Australia's coronavirus numbers are relatively low, with some 77,000 cases and 1,104 deaths.

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Source: Reuters/kg

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