Not long after controversial New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian stepped down amid a corruption scandal, Sydney residents are breathing a sigh of relief early Monday (local time) as a nearly four-month-long lockdown afflicting Australia's most populous city has finally been lifted, AFP reports.
For the last 106 days, Sydney's 5 million residents have been living under lockdown conditions, intended to suppress the hyper-infectious (allegedly) delta variant. The measures became an international joke as cases continued to soar (and are at an all time high currently), and the government mostly stood by their policy directives, despite the fact that Australia has recorded an enviably low number of hospitalizations and deaths.
You really have to be impressed at Australia’s complete inability to control their outbreak, even with some of the strictest, harshest lockdowns & mask policies in the world— IM (@ianmSC) October 8, 2021
Imagine if anyone was willing to acknowledge how destructive & ineffective The Science™ actually is pic.twitter.com/Lwh9SbE3SX
But after a successful vaccination campaign, the government no longer sees a need for the lockdown conditions. New South Wales, the state where Sydney serves as the capitol, recorded just 477 cases on Sunday, while more than 70% of the population over the age of 16 gas been fully vaccinated. While cases numbers may remain elevated in other parts of Australia, Sydney has seen a distinct downward trend in daily cases.
Restaurant owners and bars were elated at the news. Some even planned to open at 1201 local time to serve vaccinated customers after months of struggling with little to no business. Locals appeared ready to celebrate now that the chaos, punctuated by increasingly violent protests, and an influx of soldiers sent to help ensure compliance, has ended.
"It's a big day for our state," said New South Wales' recently appointed conservative premier Dominic Perrottet.
After "100 days of blood, sweat and no beers," he said, "you've earned it."
Since June, most shops, schools, salons and offices have been closed for any non-essential workers or purpose. Many critics slammed the restrictions and protests pushed back aggressively against what many described as the greatest infringement on Australians' personal liberty.
During the lockdown there were bans on everything from traveling more than 5km from home, visiting family, playing squash, browsing in supermarkets and even attending funerals.
"Very few countries have taken as stringent or extreme an approach to managing Covid as Australia," Tim Soutphommasane, an academic and former Australian race discrimination commissioner, told AFP.
Some restrictions on travel and mass gatherings will remain in place, but for the first time in months - since the delta wave arrived in Australia - life will return to some semblance of normal.