Announcing the easing of restrictions at a news conference on Monday, Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said Melbourne residents would be able to leave their homes on Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., and most businesses in the state could reopen with restrictions on the number of people.
“With 0 cases and so many tests, we can say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every Victorian who stays on the course,” Andrews said.
The sharp drop in cases has allowed the government to repeal basic social distancing measures that have been in place for weeks.
As cases began to rise this summer, Andrews introduced the harsh anti-epidemic measures that governments in Western Europe and the United States were reluctant to take for fear of harming the economy or violating civil liberties.
East Asian governments, including those in China, South Korea and Taiwan, did not need to impose such restrictions, as early efforts to control the virus focused on testing and tracking contacts, combined with the willingness of their respective populations to bear. masks and follow social distancing guidelines that helped keep the pandemic under control.
Andrews said Victoria was able to control the pandemic because of society’s willingness to endure hardship, listen to science and follow the rules.
“I could not be more proud of my current head of state, who has shown the courage, compassion and character to do this job. But it is not yet complete,” he said.
“We have to be vigilant for weeks and months … until the vaccine comes, it’s not normal. There’s only Covid-normal.”
Under the relaxed measures, staff are allowed to return to their business immediately to prepare for customers and introduce anti-epidemic measures.
Some restrictions, including a 25-kilometer travel limit and an internal border between Victoria and Melbourne, will remain in effect until November 8.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated the state on the decline in Covid-19 cases and praised the Victorians for “great progress in reducing the rate of Covid-19 infection”.
“They have played their part and have sacrificed a lot in pursuing these goals with the conviction that the restrictions will be eased,” he said.
Morrison added that Victoria will open state borders by Christmas. They were closed as part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic.
Victoria and its capital Melbourne have faced the worst Covid-19 outbreak in Australia this Australian winter.
Andrews said Monday that the government would not be “pushed by the strongest voices” to reopen before public health experts decided it was safe to do so.
Andrews hinted earlier this month that authorities are considering removing more restrictions if trends continue in the right direction. However, a small group of cases in the northern suburbs of Melbourne prompted him to introduce a “cautious pause” to test more than 4,000 residents, further delaying reopening.
Almost all tests are negative. Andrews said health authorities could now exclude widespread transmission from the community.
“It was worth the wait to be sure,” he said.