Ns News Online Desk: Sydney’s more than five million residents were subjected to a 106-day lock-down, designed to limit the march of the highly transmissible Delta variant. With new infections now falling – New South Wales state recorded 496 cases on Monday – and more than 70 percent of over-16s fully vaccinated, the city is dusting off the cobwebs.
From midnight pubs, restaurants and cafes began throwing open their doors to anyone who could prove they were vaccinated. They included 32-year-old Garth Diemer and his team of high-spirited construction workers who were making the most of a rain day.
“We knew the pubs were going to be open about 10 am ’cause it’s Freedom Day, so I thought I’d take the blokes down for a couple of schooners,” he told AFP.
“I’ll tell you what, mate, it is bloody beautiful just to have a beer right in the middle of the heart of Sydney, at the Circular Quay and have a beer with your mates. I’m over this lock-down.”
Cafe-goer Peter Morgan, 35, was also relishing his newly regained freedoms.
“Even though it’s like freezing outside, it’s so good,” he said. “The first thing I’m going to do is see my parents. Actually no, not see my parents. I’m going to go to Lakemba to get a Lebanese mixed plate and then go see my parents.”
Across the city, shaggy-haired customers lined up outside hairdressers to get eyebrow-raising home cuts and dye jobs repaired.
“I couldn’t wait to be in here to get the hair done,” said Brett Toelle, a salon customer in Surry Hills whose last trim was 15 weeks ago. “That’s the longest time I’ve ever been without a haircut.”
For many, the end of lock-down was a chance to get into the shops.
At midnight, hundreds of people poured into a discount Kmart store in the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt, with social media images showing long queues inside.
For others, it was a chance to put their business back on track. “It’s a great vibe this morning,” said Hannah Simmons, owner of Gordon’s Cafe in the beach side suburb of Clovelly whose business survived the lock-down by offering takeaway.
“The outside seating will be a little bit dreary but that’s OK. We are really excited to be back there and open.”Since June, shops, schools, salons and offices have been closed for non-essential workers and there have been unprecedented restrictions on personal freedom.
There were bans on everything from traveling more than five kilometers (three miles) from home, visiting family, playing squash, browsing in supermarkets to attending funerals.
For most of the pandemic, Australia successfully suppressed infections through border closures, lock-downs and aggressive testing and tracing. But the Delta variant put paid to any dream of “Covid-zero”, at least in the largest cities of Melbourne and Sydney which are now pivoting to “living with Covid”.