MELBOURNE: Melbourne, the world's most locked-down city that emerged from its latest spate of COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, will see more curbs eased next week when Victoria state reaches an 80 per cent full vaccination rate, officials said on Sunday (Oct 24).
Home to about 5 million people, Melbourne endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of stay-at-home restrictions during six lockdowns since March 2020, longer than the 234-day continuous lockdown in Buenos Aires.
Starting on Friday, when 80 per cent of people across Victoria - of which Melbourne is the capital - are expected to be fully vaccinated, Melburnians will be free to travel throughout the state and masks will no longer be required outdoors.
"There's a fundamental agreement that we have reached with the Victorian community, we asked you to get vaccinated, you have done that in record time and record numbers," Premier Daniel Andrews said.
With a once-sputtering vaccine roll-out now at full speed, authorities across Australia no longer plan to rely on extended lockdowns to suppress the virus. Victoria recorded 1,935 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths on Sunday.
As the state moves towards a "vaccinated economy" in which only fully inoculated people will be allowed into venues, a 90 per cent percent rate is expected around Nov 24, Andrews said.
He added that he wanted to see crowds in excess of 80,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test on Dec 26 between Australia and England.
"It's our approach to try and achieve life as close to normal as possible," Andrews said.
Australians overwhelmingly support vaccinations, with research by the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne, showing in October that only 6.9 per cent of the population were unwilling to be inoculated.
New South Wales state, whose capital Sydney spent 100 days in a lockdown that ended earlier this month, recorded 296 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths. Nearly 85 per cent of the state's population have been fully vaccinated.