Mad midnight rush as Sydney exits one of world’s strictest lockdowns


MELBOURNE: Restaurants and pubs opened at midnight and retail stores witnessed long queues as a four-month lockdown — among the world’s harshest — was eased in Sydney, Australia’s largest city.
A drizzle did little to dampen spirits as fully vaccinated people rushed to restaurants and cafes just as the lockdown was lifted at midnight on Sunday. Many eateries offered discounts as high as 49% to tempt customers. Indoor gyms recorded full bookings for group classes and offices reopened.
Reservations at major restaurants were hard to come by, so were appointments with the hairdressers. Videos showed queues outside retail stores just past midnight. Resident Shreyasi Sircar, too, went shopping on Monday. “Of course, everywhere I went, I had to show my vaccination certificate,” she said. Sydney, capital of the state of New South Wales, had become the epicentre of the third Covid wave driven by the Delta variant in June. Since then, harsh restrictions were put in place, including banning people from venturing farther than 5km from home.
The city has now reopened after touching a full vaccination rate of 70%. Melbourne, though, has been under lockdown for 254 days now. With New South Wales recording nearly 400 cases a day, this is Australia’s first attempt at living with the virus. This comes just days after Australian PM Scott Morrison said that a ban on Australians travelling abroad would be lifted. The PM had said that it was “time to give Australians their lives back”.
On Monday, Dominic Perrottet, the new premier for New South Wales, said “efforts people have made to go and get vaccinated had allowed this day to occur” . He admitted that there may be challenges and case numbers might increase, but added the opening was extremely important for the economy. “NSW is leading Australia out of this pandemic,” he said.
Mask mandates will be in place till 80% of the state is fully vaccinated. Some social media users, however, were upset that only fully vaccinated people can enjoy full mobility. “October 11 will be remembered as discrimination day and segregation day in Australian history,” wrote a user online.





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