Three months after Australia’s biggest city locked down to contain its latest coronavirus outbreak, the authorities have outlined a path to reopening. If it reaches a series of milestones in vaccination rates, Sydney will see restrictions start to lift in early October, with the aim of returning to normal life by December.
The city’s five million residents will begin to emerge from lockdown on Oct. 11, Gladys Berejiklian, premier of the state of New South Wales, said on Monday. That is the date by which officials expect to have vaccinated 70 percent of the state’s population over the age of 16, she said. Residents of Sydney, as well as some parts of rural New South Wales still under lockdown, will once again be able to go to hairdressers and attend weddings, funerals and small gatherings.
By late October, when 80 percent of the state is projected to be fully vaccinated, Sydney residents will be able to drink standing up in restaurants and bars, and attend larger events. Unvaccinated people will still be barred from those activities, officials said, but they will be able to attend places of worship. And New South Wales will allow more Australians stranded overseas to return.
On Dec. 1, most venues including cinemas, nightclubs and museums will reopen, masks will no longer be mandatory indoors and restrictions will be lifted for unvaccinated residents. Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city, is set to start emerging from lockdown on Oct. 26, when 70 percent of residents aged over 16 are expected to be fully vaccinated.
Nationwide, 41 percent of Australia’s population is fully vaccinated and 63 percent have had at least one dose.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that before the end of the year, he expects to reopen the border to foreign visitors and allow Australians to travel abroad again.