‘Emotional day’ as Melbourne welcomes exit from Covid-19 lockdown

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Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, will leave its coronavirus lock after nearly four months under stressful restrictions, authorities announced on Monday with no new daily cases or deaths recorded.

Lock orders for Melbourne residents are lifted from midnight Tuesday to Wednesday, while restaurants, beauty salons and retail stores are allowed to open their doors to customers.

Home to 5 million people, Australia’s second largest city has been on lockdown since early July following an increase in Covid-19 infections that began in hotels where people were quarantined after arriving from abroad.

The city and surrounding state of Victoria recorded its first 24-hour period without new Covid-19 cases, since infections escalated after security bangs at some quarantine hotels triggered a major outbreak.

Announcing the long-awaited easing of restrictions, Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews declared it an “emotional day”.

“This has been a very difficult year. And the Victorians have given a lot and I am proud of every single one of them,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“Now is the time to open up,” Andrews added. “We have been able to bring this under control, a day of zero cases is a great achievement.”

‘Donut Day’ marks zero new cases

Social media users declared the return to zero new cases “Donut Day”, with the hashtag trending as some Twitter users posted selfies with the treats to party.

Melbourne became the epicenter of the country’s second wave, with new daily cases rising above 700 in August, with the rest of Australia already reversing virus restrictions.

Some restrictions were already lifted last week, allowing haircuts and golf games to return, but further easing scheduled for Sunday was delayed by 24 hours to assess thousands of test results after a small eruption in the northern part of the city.

Andrews said all the tests had returned negative results.

“It was worth the wait to be absolutely sure to be sure our team had their arms around the positive issues and basic control of the outbreak – and that’s exactly what these numbers show us,” he said.

For weeks, there has been pressure on state authorities to give the city more freedoms, with a number of rules in place as they took a cautious approach to reopening despite the declining number of cases.

The rest of Victoria State is already enjoying fewer restrictions, with gyms open to reopen and outdoor live music resuming from Tuesday.

Restrictions on travel between Melbourne and the Victoria region will be lifted from 8 November, and a 25 km (15 miles) travel radius for city residents will also be removed on the same day.

The state is still cut off from the rest of Australia, which also maintains strict controls at international borders to prevent the transmission of the virus from abroad.

Australia has had relatively great success in limiting the spread of coronavirus with around 27,500 cases and 905 deaths in a population of 25 million.

( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)