Australian authorities on Sunday announced a slight easing of the restriction measures in force in Melbourne, the second largest city in the country, after a steady decline in the number of new infections.
Melbourne’s five million people have been under sweeping restrictions for more than 100 days designed to tackle an uncontrolled wave of COVID-19 cases.
Authorities on Sunday lifted the measure that limited the time people could spend away from their homes to two hours to engage in authorized activities.
They have also extended the distance they can travel to 25 kilometers to exercise, buy basic necessities and work in professions deemed essential to society.
Daniel Andrews, Prime Minister of the state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, however, has rejected growing calls for all travel restrictions to be lifted and restaurants to be reopened more widely and other businesses.
He claimed that the 1er November, if cases of contamination remained under control, the measure requiring residents to stay at home could be lifted and restrictions on businesses could be relaxed.
“I’m not doing what’s popular, I’m doing what’s safe, because we don’t want to know this again” if there is a new wave of infections, Andrews said.
In recent days, the number of new daily cases in Victoria state has dropped to less than 10, after reaching several hundred in August.
The coronavirus resurfaced in June in that state, as other parts of Australia had managed to contain the epidemic, including neighboring New South Wales, which includes Sydney.
Members of the Conservative Party and the federal government have criticized the containment policy put in place in Victoria state by the center-left government of Mr Andrews, accusing it of undermining nationwide economic stimulus efforts.
“It is time to make sure that we can now move forward and give the people of Victoria and Melbourne the opportunity to rebuild, to recover what has been so terribly lost,” the Australian Prime Minister said on Friday, Scott Morrison.
Since the start of the pandemic, Australia, with a population of 25 million, has had a total of 27,000 cases and 904 deaths, including 800 in the state of Victoria.