For the first time in approximately two months, residents of Australia’s second-largest city won’t have to hurry home tonight to make the 8 p.m. curfew.
Melbourne, the epicenter of the country’s largest coronavirus outbreak, has been on lockdown since early July. With infection numbers plummeting, Premier Daniel Andrews announced Sunday that the surrounding state of Victoria had hit its benchmarks “ahead of schedule” and Melbourne would no longer be subject to a curfew after Monday morning. While some restrictions will stay in place, child-care centers can begin reopening, and outdoor public gatherings will be allowed for up to five people from no more than two households.
“We have made more progress than we hoped to make at this point in time,” Andrews said Sunday, while cautioning that the virus “will run wild” if all precautions are abandoned in the rush to get back to normal life.
Melbourne residents are still subject to stay-at-home orders, which require all but essential workers to work from home and limit shopping excursions to trips for essential supplies. Masks remain mandatory in public spaces, and restaurants will continue to offer takeout only.
Victoria has averaged less than two dozen new infections a day in recent weeks, a sharp drop-off from the summer months, when more than 700 cases were logged in a day. The state remains the hardest-hit area in Australia, the result of multiple outbreaks that were linked to security breaches at quarantine hotels after the country began reopening for the first time this summer. Multiple investigations into the breaches are underway.