Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases yesterday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus.
Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as Premier Daniel Andrews said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases.
Andrews said the state might reach that vaccination threshold around Oct. 26. About 43 percent of Victorians have been fully vaccinated, 46 percent nationwide.
“We will do so cautiously, but make no mistake, we are opening this place up. There is no alternative,” Andrews said. The state “cannot perennially or permanently suppress this virus. Lockdowns have been about buying time to get to 70 percent and 80 percent vaccination.”
Many social distancing restrictions are to remain, while retail and hospitality venues will be limited. However, people will be free to leave their houses without a reason.
Andrews said that the authorities aim to have 80 percent of the state’s eligible population fully vaccinated in time for the Nov. 2 Melbourne Cup, leaving the door open for crowds on track at one of the world’s most famous horse races.
The COVID-19 plan follows a federal scheme that is to end lockdowns at a 70 percent vaccination rate and gradually reopen international borders at 80 percent.
New South Wales has adopted a similar plan. Australia’s most populous state reported 1,083 cases yesterday as it uses lockdowns and vaccination blitzes to fight an outbreak of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 that began in mid-June.
The state, home to Sydney, eased some restrictions on gathering yesterday. About 52 percent of people have been vaccinated in New South Wales.
After eliminating outbreaks last year through lockdowns, border closures and strict public health measures, Australia has acknowledged in recent months that it may not be able to eradicate Delta outbreaks.
The country has had just over 84,000 COVID-19 cases, but two-thirds of the infections have occurred this year, mostly since June. There have been 1,162 deaths related to COVID-19.
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