COVID-19: Melbourne celebrates as restrictions end in 'world's most locked-down city'

·2 min read

Melbourne residents are celebrating the end of a sixth round of restrictions that has dubbed it the "world's most locked-down city". 

People flocked to the city's pubs, restaurants and hair salons in the early hours of Friday after Australia's second-largest city emerged from its latest spate of COVID-19 measures.

Melbourne has so far endured 262 days - nearly nine months - of restrictions during six separate lockdowns since March 2020, representing the longest cumulative lockdown for any city in the world.

Residents were seen celebrating, cheering and clapping from their balconies, while cars honked horns continuously at 11:59pm on Thursday when lockdown restrictions in place since early August ended.

Many venues, including food outlets and even hairdressers, opened at the unusual hour for the occasion.

Josh Mihan, owner of The Bearded Man barber shop, said he is nearly booked out for the next month and is encouraging customers to make appointments for Christmas.

"We all love cutting hair and being on the floor is such a lovely feeling, being around people," he said.

"I have urged our customer base, make sure you have booked in your Christmas cut."

Under more relaxed rules, restaurants and cafes can reopen with up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors - all of whom must be vaccinated - while 10 guests can gather at homes.

Early this month, Australia's largest city reopened to fully vaccinated people after being in lockdown for more than 100 days.

It comes as just over 70% of adults in Australia are now fully vaccinated and many residents are planning to fly overseas again as international border restrictions start to ease from November

Qantas Airways Ltd said on Friday that it would speed up plans to restart flights to many destinations and upsize some planes amid "massive demand".

Even with Delta outbreaks across Australia's southeast from late June, coronavirus numbers are still far lower than those of many comparable nations, with some 152,000 cases and 1,590 deaths.

The state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, reported 2,189 new local COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths on Friday, making it the centre of the Delta outbreak in Australia.

Daily cases in New South Wales, home to Sydney where the Delta variant was first detected in June, dropped slightly to 345. The state recorded a further five deaths.

With a once-stuttering vaccine rollout gaining momentum, authorities no longer plan to rely on extended lockdowns to
suppress the virus.

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