Sydney celebrates ‘Freedom Day’ after almost four months of Covid lockdown as vaccination rate crosses 70%

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Sydney’s cafes, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers reopened to fully vaccinated customers on Monday after nearly four months of a Covid lockdown as the state of New South Wales crossed its target of fully vaccinating over 70% of its population, a move that signals the start of Australia’s new strategy of living with the virus in areas with high vaccination rates.

Key Facts

New South Wales (NSW) Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet told reporters in the state capital Sydney that Monday was “Freedom Day” and the state led the nation out of the pandemic, but acknowledged that “this will be a challenge.”

The move comes at a time when 74% of NSW’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Additional pandemic restrictions will be removed when the state hits 80% vaccination benchmark, allowing NSW residents to fly abroad without restrictions for the first time since March last year.

On Monday, New South Wales reported 496 new Covid-19 cases, well below last month’s highs of over 1,500, but Perrottet warned that the infection rate would rise when Sydney residents return to work.

Despite concerns about yet another increase in cases, Perrottet said infection and hospitalization rates in the state remained lower than what had been predicted by modeling.

The state border with neighboring Queensland will continue to remain closed, as the northwestern state only has a vaccination rate of 52% at present.