SYDNEY – With euphoria and happiness, the citizens of Melbourne, the second-largest city in Australia, emerged on Wednesday from a confinement of almost four months imposed to overcome a COVID-19 second wave.
“You see the happiness, the euphoria of the people. I went to the supermarket and people with whom you have no relationship smile at you and say ‘finally!’” Uruguayan Alma Luz Dapueto, who has lived there for 44 years, told EFE.
The Uruguayan, who said she’d meet her children and grandchildren on Wednesday in a restaurant, assures “it was worth the sacrifice” of this confinement, considered it was one of the strictest and longest worldwide.
At the doors of bars and restaurants, rows of people were singing with joy the countdown to the arrival of midnight that marked the end of the confinement and the beginning of the celebrations.
Since Wednesday, Melbourne’s retail stores, restaurants, cafes and beauty businesses reopen, though with capacity restrictions and under strong sanitary measures, and freedom of movement and meetings in the city is expanded.
On July 9, close to five million Melbourne residents were confined for the second time to quell the COVID-19 infection increase.
Measures included the prohibition of leaving the house except in few exceptions – such as doing sport for one hour a day within a five-kilometer radius – the closure of many businesses and establishments and a night curfew.
The toughest restrictions were applied in Melbourne, which was the epicenter of the second wave that began in part by those who skipped quarantine in hotels, with less strict measures in the rest of Victoria.
The state, which has drastically reduced infections, went from 2,900 infections in early July to the current 20,340, almost 75 percent of the total cases nationwide since the pandemic was detected.
Of the 905 COVID-19 deaths in Australia, Victoria accounts for 819.
This second confinement was more restrictive than the one between March 30 and May 11.
Measures sparked several protests, including one on Oct. 23 in Melbourne that brought together hundreds of people who defied the quarantine and ended with 16 detainees.
The lack of refinement is not yet total as Melbourne residents must stay within 25 kilometers of their homes, preventing travel to other regions until Nov. 8.
Capacity limits also remain in force for both indoor and outdoor meetings; and establishments, such as gyms, have not yet been able to reopen.
On Monday and Tuesday, authorities said no new infections or deaths had been detected for the first time since the beginning of June. Wednesday saw two infections and two deaths.
The virus “will always be there, but if the numbers are very low, they will be absolutely manageable,” Victoria Governor Daniel Andrews said Wednesday in his daily appearance.
Melbourne residents are beginning to resume their daily habits and future plans.
Australian states have reopened their economies at different speeds and some maintain closure at interstate borders.
The country hopes to reactivate its economy before Christmas to emerge from the recession in which it is plunged after almost 30 years of growth, although the most favorable forecasts estimate that it may grow in the last quarter of the year.
Victoria’s economy accounts for 23 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and is, together with the state of New South Wales, the engine of the Australian economy.