Australia moves closer to pre-pandemic life, COVID-19 reined in for now

Reuters

Posted at Feb 27 2021 07:04 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2021 08:19 PM

Commuters wearing protective face masks in accordance with new public health regulations for riding public transit depart a train station in the wake of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia, January 6, 2021. Loren Elliott, Reuters/File

MELBOURNE - Life across Australia inched toward pre-pandemic normal on Saturday, with New South Wales and South Australia states allowing some dancing and Victoria permitting larger crowds at sporting events.

The three states, home to nearly two-thirds of Australia's 25 million people, recorded no community transmissions on Saturday of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. For New South Wales, the most populous state, it was 41st straight day without a local case.

The state, in addition to allowing up to 30 people to dance at weddings, eased further restrictions on the number of visitors at home. South Australia state allowed some club dancing from Friday.

People in Victoria, which this month imposed a five-day strict lockdown after a small outbreak of the coronavirus, woke up on Saturday to rules allowing stadiums to seat 50% of capacity for sporting events.

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Australia has fared better than most advanced economies thanks to swift border closures, high community compliance with public health measures and aggressive testing and tracing. It has reported fewer than 29,000 coronavirus infections and 909 COVID-19 deaths.

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On Monday, the country began vaccinations program, with about 60,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses administered to priority populations, such as aged-care and disability staff, and border protection and quarantine workers.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday as part of the rollout that aims to offer immunizations to all Australians by October.

"The timing of the vaccination will also help facilitate possible international travel in the near future so we can continue to prosecute vital national interests with our international partners," Payne said in a statement. 

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)