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Melbourne announces easing of restrictions after Australian coronavirus epicenter failed to register new cases

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 remarkable milestone in the absence of new cases comes just months after Andrews declared a “state of emergency” to stop the outbreak, in which about 725 people in the US test tested positive for the virus in one day.

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.

From a public health standpoint, Andrews’ decision seems to work. As cases in Europe continue to rise to record levels, and US President Donald Trump’s chief of staff says the United States “will not be able to control the pandemic,” Victoria seems to have done just that.

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.

Although Victoria accounted for at least 20,300 of Australia’s more than 27,500 cases and 817 of the country’s 905 deaths as of Monday, the number of active cases in Victoria has been steadily declining over the past 30 days. The number of new infections has been in single digits since October 13 and has not exceeded 20 in the last month.

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.

Winter lock

Victoria and its capital Melbourne have faced the worst Covid-19 outbreak in Australia this Australian winter.

Andrews declared the disaster in early August as Victoria recorded hundreds of cases a day as the federal government closed the state’s borders to insignificant travel. The state government has introduced some of the strictest social distancing measures in the country, including putting 5 million Melbourne residents under seven weeks in prison and banning almost all outdoor travel.
The decision was unpopular with Andrews’ opponents on the right, who staged protests, called him a “dictator” and said he was trying to build a Gulag. He has also faced pressure from business and leaders of his own party – including Prime Minister Morrison – to ease tensions over the economy caused by the blockade.

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.

Draconian restrictions were maintained for some time, even as the number of cases in the country and the number of deaths began to decline.
By the end of September, cases had dropped to low double digits, allowing the government to lift curfews in Melbourne.

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.

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