Australia’s New South Wales has topped 1,000 daily Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases for the first time since the pandemic began in 2019.
The state recorded 1,029 locally transmitted cases in the past 24-hour reporting period, health authorities said Thursday, marking the latest in a string of daily records in recent days.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian meanwhile announced a slight easing of lockdown restrictions for those who were vaccinated starting Monday, Sept. 13.
Vaccinated adults outside Sydney’s designated hotspots, which were under much stricter lockdown rules than the rest of the city, would be allowed to meet in groups of five, Berejiklian announced on Thursday.
Inside the hotspots, households with all adults vaccinated would be able to gather outdoors for recreation but only in accordance with a curfew.
This was in addition to one hour allowed for exercise.
Authorities said this was the first step on a roadmap that provided for further freedoms to follow for vaccinated people when targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent were reached.
Berejiklian also called for businesses and industry to get ready for measures to be eased after 70 per cent of the state’s eligible population has had both vaccine doses.
“That’s when things will start to open,’’ she said.
An app to combine sign-ins to venues and proof of vaccination status was being developed, and there would be certain activities only available to vaccinated people, Berejiklian said.
Australia was previously largely successful in pursuing an elimination strategy through keeping international borders closed and turning to circuit breaker lockdowns.
But more than eight weeks of lockdown in Greater Sydney had failed to squash cases of the highly contagious Delta strain back to zero.
After a sluggish start to the country’s vaccination campaign, partly due to supply issues and confusion over the AstraZeneca jab, state governments have been ramping up efforts to get 80 per cent of the public vaccinated.
New South Wales, a state of some 8 million people, has fully vaccinated almost 33 per cent of its adults, and more than 60 per cent have had the first dose.
Greater Sydney would remain in lockdown at least until the end of September, while measures for the rest of the state have been extended until at least Sept. 10.
Australia, a country of some 25 million people, has fully vaccinated around 31 per cent of its eligible population.
Nationwide, some 46,000 Coronavirus cases and almost 1,000 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began. (dpa/NAN)