Sydney enjoys freedom as Melbourne's lockdown becomes world's longest

Sydney embraces freedom… as Melbourne’s lockdown becomes world’s longest: After 253 days of restrictions, one Aussie city looks on with envy as another sees cases plummet – and heads to the pub!

  • Victoria has now suffered 253 days under lockdown, overtaking Buenos Aires
  • Infections remain high and restrictions will remain until 70% vaccination rate
  • New South Wales eased measures on Monday after months of stay-at-home laws

Jubilant Aussies in Sydney have flocked to bars and restaurants to celebrate their ‘freedom’ from Covid restrictions – in sharp contrast to Melbourne which has endured more time in lockdown than any other city in the world.

Beleaguered residents in Victoria’s capital city of Melbourne have suffered 253 days of draconian stay-at-home Covid restrictions, eclipsing Buenos Aires to hold the unenviable world record.

But while Melburnians are now pinning their hopes on a relaxation of rules before the Australian summer, millions in New South Wales have been released from their lockdown and are already basking in their newfound freedom by heading out for a drink. 

Pubs, cafes and retail stores reopened yesterday after vaccination levels across the state’s adult population crossed 70%. Sydney’s Covid cases fell to the lowest in two months on Tuesday while total infections across the state dropped to 360 marking a steady downward trend. 

Melburnians, however, can only look on in envy as they remain mostly stuck in their homes.

The current lockdown is the sixth enforced upon Melbourne and the city will have spent 45 per cent of the pandemic under the measures by the time they are expected to ease later this month. 

Adults are only able to go outside for essential shopping, authorised work, exercise, caregiving and medical appointments, while a curfew is also in place between 9pm and 5am.

The streets of Melbourne, Victoria, remain empty and quiet as the state remains under harsh lockdown measures

Sydneysiders are now making the most of their newfound freedoms by packing bars and restaurants after they were released from lockdown on Monday

People made the most of their newfound freedoms in Sydney as they headed straight to the pub after restrictions eased

Most schools have been closed for months and there are already attainment gaps between children in Victoria and their peers across the country.  

The hospitality industry has been crippled with many bars and restaurants shutting their doors for good, while economists estimate around £500million is lost for every week of lockdown. 

Victoria’s first lockdown started in March 30 until May 12 when restrictions were eased to the envy of many countries around the world.

But it only lasted until July 8 when the state was plunged back into a 111-day lockdown until October 27.

Since then, a brief five-day firebreak lockdown in February was implemented, followed by three longer stints of which the current has been going on since August 5. 

The measures have been met with fierce backlash and protests from angry residents in both Sydney and Melbourne unhappy at being locked up for so long, leading to ugly clashes with police and multiple arrests 

The state has recorded under 1,000 deaths throughout the whole pandemic yet millions have been forced to surrender their freedoms. 

The current restrictions are likely to remain in place until at least October 26 when the state is predicted to hit a 70 per cent vaccination rate.

But experts fear that current infection rates will continue to surge with Victoria experiencing 3,000 new cases per day by the end of the month. 

Nearly 1,500 infections were recorded in the state on Tuesday, the lowest in six days but still far higher than the 360 registered in New South Wales.

Victoria has had a total of 55,936 infections while New South Wales has recorded 69,552 cases throughout the pandemic.

The federal government has been pressing states to begin living with the virus when vaccination rates reach 70 per cent but some virus-free states said they may delay their reopening amid concerns that a surge in cases will overwhelm their health systems.

Chaos in Melbourne: Anti-lockdown protesters faced off with police in September despite the threat of $5,500 fines

In New South Wales, gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians reopened on Monday

People line up to enter a Louis Vuitton store after stay-at-home orders were lifted across NSW

Indoor entertainment facilities such as cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen now in Sydney

New South Wales hit the target last week and at 12.01am on Monday, stay-at-home orders and business closures ended after they were implemented in June.

Going to the pub, dining out, getting a haircut, seeing a movie at the cinema and heading to the gym are some of the activities vaccinated residents can now do under the new orders. 

They will also be able to see vaccinated family and friends with up to 10 visitors allowed for home gatherings and up to 30 outdoors under increased caps announced by new Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, non-essential retail, libraries and churches can operate under the one person per 4sqm rule but nightclubs will remain closed.

Hairdressers and beauticians will also welcome back vaccinated clients but are restricted to a maximum of five in the premises at one time.

Gyms can have up to 20 clients per class while stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can have up to 5,000 visitors.

The current lockdown is the sixth enforced upon Melbourne and the city will have spent 45 per cent of the pandemic under the measures

Department of Health deputy secretary Kate Matson warned Victoria could reach 3,000 cases a day towards the end of October

Indoor entertainment facilities such as cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen with one person per 4sqm or 75 per cent fixed seated capacity.

Up to 100 vaccinated guests can attend a wedding or funeral but must be seat when eating and drinking.

Vaccinated residents can venture more than 5km from their home and travel anywhere within Sydney.

Intrastate travel to regional areas remains banned for another few weeks,

Masks in outdoor settings are no longer mandatory, except for hospitality workers actively serving customers.

Further restrictions will be eased later this month once NSW hits 80 per cent vaccination before life opens up to the unvaccinated from December 1.

The lockdowns have been met with public opposition with heavy handed police enforcing the harsh rules

The state has recorded under 1,000 deaths throughout the whole pandemic yet millions have been forced to surrender their freedoms

NSW Police arrested 32 people and issued 265 Penalty Infringement Notices to demonstrators across the state on one day in September (pictured, police question a man at Sydney Park)

But in Melbourne, these freedoms remain weeks away for all its residents as the government battles to contain the contagious Delta variant.

Department of Health deputy secretary Kate Matson warned Victoria could reach 3,000 cases a day towards the end of October.

‘At this point in time, we are on track in terms of hospitalisations and new cases,’ she said.

‘But I will remind you there is a middle line and an upper and lower band, and we are still within that band.’

On Saturday, the state recorded 1,965 new cases, breaking the previous record three times in one week.

More than 86 per cent of Victorians have now received at least one Covid jab and more than 58 per cent are fully-vaccinated. 

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