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Australia Gradually Eases Its Toughest COVID-19 Lockdown in Melbourne

Workers go about their duties at a construction site in Sydney, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.

A curfew imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus has been lifted in the Australian city of Melbourne. The Victorian state government has said that a fall in the number of infections is allowing them to gradually relax other restrictions. Melbourne was placed into a second lockdown in July because of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

New cases of COVID-19 in Melbourne have fallen enough that officials are talking about re-opening the city. In late July, authorities had reported more than 700 new daily infections. On Monday, they recorded just five cases.

Infections have fallen sufficiently for Australia’s second-biggest city to move to the second of a four-step recovery plan.

A night-time curfew has ended, and all primary schools will reopen in two weeks’ time, while about 130,000 people will be allowed back to work.

The next step could be taken earlier than its scheduled date of October 26. To achieve a ‘COVID-normal’ status, Victoria would need to have recorded no new infections for 28 days.

Victoria premier Daniel Andrews says the state is “so close to beating” the coronavirus.

He hopes other restrictions will soon be lifted.

“This is a strategy that is designed to get us to a COVID-normal Christmas. We are well on track. In fact, we are ahead of time when it comes to achieving that outcome. That is a credit to every single Victorian who is staying the course, working hard, making sacrifices,” Andrews said.

Many personal freedoms remain restricted in Melbourne. Residents can only leave their homes for one of four reasons, including study, work and caregiving.

A second wave of infections in Victoria is blamed on security failures in the hotel quarantine system for Australian travelers returning from overseas. A judicial inquiry has heard that travelers infected hotel staff, who then spread the disease into the community with devastating consequences.

Victoria has had 75% of Australia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, and most of its fatalities.

New South Wales, the nation’s most populous state, Sunday recorded no new infections for the first time since early June.

Australia has had about 27,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. More than 870 people have died.