Sunday , November 29 2020

Australia eases Covid-19 control after ‘avoiding disaster’

Pedestrians walk along Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne in early November. (AP image)

MELBOURNE: Australia moved a step closer to normal life on Sunday, opening some internal borders and easing restrictions in areas affected by Covid-19, as most countries have seen no new community infections or deaths for weeks.

South Australia, which last week was the epicenter of the country’s infections, reported no new community cases and lifted its drastic lockdown earlier than planned, with the state’s prime minister saying swift action had averted disaster.

The number of active cases in the state stood at 37 after an outbreak linked to travelers returning from Britain forced 4,500 people to be quarantined.

“We have avoided a catastrophic situation in our state by following strict health advice,” Prime Minister Steven Marshall told a news conference.

Neighbors Victoria, which has been battling the pandemic for months and where 90% of Australia’s 907 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded, relaxed its mask rules on Sunday, saying they were not required to go outside, and allowed larger public gatherings.

The state, home to some 6.4 million people, has had no new infections for 23 days, a win that comes after a 111-day lockdown that left people at home and most businesses closed.

New South Wales, the most populous state with a quarter of Australia’s 24 million people, reported no new community cases on Sunday for 15 consecutive days. The state will open its borders with Victoria on Monday.

There are 12 new cases reported across Australia among travelers in hotel quarantines. The country, which closed its outer borders early, restricted international arrivals and required a two-week hotel quarantine for arriving travelers.

With more than 27,800 cases, Australia has done better than most other developed countries in fighting Covid-19, thanks to its aggressive response. As of Sunday, there were an estimated 88 active cases across the country.

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