There were long lines outside pubs, hairdressers and beauty salons as Australia’s most populous city reopened on Monday, as part of Sydney’s first steps towards life with Covid-19 after more than 100 days of lockdown.
About 5 million Sydneysiders woke up on Monday morning after enduring 106 days of strict stay-at-home orders in a bid to tackle the highly contagious Delta strain.
Despite an unusually cold and rainy start to the season, thousands of people defied the gray skies and flocked to newly opened cafes, barbers and beauty salons to kick off what some have described as’ Freedom Day. “.
Some even lined up in front of department stores a few minutes before midnight to shop in-store for the first time in nearly four months. Others have crowded into pubs to enjoy the day’s first fresh beers to boost the city’s hospitality and entertainment industry.
Queues spread outside barbers and downtown gyms as people jumped at the chance to take some well-deserved personal care after spending months at home.
However, only those who are fully vaccinated can participate in the new freedoms under conditions set by the New South Wales state roadmap to get out of lockdown.
The freedoms came into effect after the state hit the threshold of 70% of adults vaccinated at double doses. NSW leads the nation in immunization rates. As of Monday, 73.5% of people aged 16 and over were fully vaccinated against the virus across New South Wales.
Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pubs, swimming pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians are just a few of the places that once again welcomed customers from Monday, although subject to quotas of strict customers and mask warrants.
A 5 km travel limit was also dropped and residents were allowed to have 10 people in their homes and to gather in groups of 30 outside in public.
Head of state Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet, speaking to the public from inside a downtown pub, warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations would continue to rise, but that he was important for mental health as businesses reopen.
“There will be challenges ahead, but we have to open up. And we have to get people back to work, ”he said. “We cannot remain closed. We must learn to live alongside the virus. “
A total of 90.3% of people aged 16 and over in NSW have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a recently released publication The data from NSW Health.
Business owners have expressed both relief and concern to reopen on Monday. Salon owner Moustafa Elrifai said there was so much enthusiasm and demand for the haircuts that he opened his salon in Lakemba, southwest Sydney, an hour earlier than the normal.
“When I opened my eyes today I was crying, I swear to God. I hadn’t opened the store for months. I had to pay my bills and everything – it was hard, ”he said. “But today I’m very happy, the reopening is very good.”
But a sense of nervousness and caution persisted in many Sydney suburbs disproportionately affected by the virus.
Retail worker Jaylen Gul said the community in southwest Sydney was nervous as they were still “scarred” by their experiences under lockdown.
“A lot of news also scares people. I have a lot of friends who got the virus, and they knew people who got it, and I think that’s why people are afraid, ”he said.
“I felt like it had been so long, I wasn’t sure what to do, I’m still confused about the rules, they seem to change every day.
“I’m also nervous about going back to lockdown. We are all on our guard.
In the midst of the joy reigned a feeling of uncertainty. Dewey Nipatpokai, of Toby’s Coffee Estate in Sydney’s CBD, said the day was “awesome” and “weird”.
“We got used to only doing take out. So it was weird this morning, setting up a shop with signs and cleaning the tables.
Nipatpokai said that while he was anxious to get back to normal, he was nervous when he saw people ignoring Covid’s safety rules.
“A lot of people sit down without showing their vaccination passports. They are impatient. And while we feel like we are improving, if we continue to do so, we fear falling back into containment. “
Sydney was plunged into lockdown on June 26 as authorities struggled to tackle the Delta strain, which infiltrated the community via flight attendants and their driver, amid a slow vaccine rollout. .
On Monday, NSW recorded 496 new locally acquired Covid cases and eight deaths. The death toll in the state from the Delta outbreak is 439.
As Sydney reopens, the prospect of reopening international borders is also looming on the horizon.
Perrottet said: “We cannot live here as a hermit kingdom halfway around the world – we want returning Australians to come back.
“If New South Wales can play a role in helping other states bring their Australians home, we want to be part of it and we will work with other states and territories.”