© Reuters. People wait in line to receive a test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) behind the Kings Park townhouse complex, closed in response to an outbreak, in Melbourne, Australia, on June 16, 2021. REUTERS / Sandra Sanders
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second-largest city will allow its five million residents to travel more than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from home and end the mandatory use of outdoor masks from Friday, despite that the city is battling a COVID-19 outbreak.
Melbourne emerged from a harsh two-week lockdown late last week, the fourth since the pandemic began, after an outbreak that has seen about 100 cases since May 24.
“Victoria is at her best when we are all together … the state will be back together starting tomorrow night,” Victoria’s Acting Prime Minister James Merlino told reporters.
Although cases involving a new group in a townhouse residential complex increased slightly on Wednesday, Melbourne will gradually ease restrictions.
Public gatherings will be increased to 20 people, while the ban on home gatherings will be lifted. Gyms can open in Melbourne, but they must adhere to strict distancing rules and salon services can operate without masks during service.
Victoria reported five new local cases on Wednesday, all linked to the rowhouse cluster, bringing the total infections there to eight. Wednesday’s data includes two cases announced Tuesday that were recorded after the midnight deadline.
Officials deemed the new cases to pose a low risk of spread in the community, as they have all been linked to the existing outbreak, but warned people to strictly follow social distancing rules.
“It is not over yet by any means … please do not revert to behaviors that suggest there is absolutely no risk,” Victoria State Health Director Brett Sutton said during a televised news conference.
Rapid contact tracing, instant lockdowns and strict social distancing measures have helped Australia successfully combat past outbreaks and keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just under 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.
Daily cases have remained in single digits for the past nine days in Victoria, while other states and territories have effectively cleared the virus.
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