"Nice to feel you've got a bit of freedom back again" - one Sydney gym-goer on the joys of being able to hit the treadmill again as the city opens up to the vaccinated
Some businesses opened at midnight due to demand from people impatient to enjoy their freedom after 107 days in lockdown.
Sydney had been earmarked to open the Monday after 70% of the New South Wales state population aged 16 and older were fully vaccinated.
The state finally reached that figure, with 73.5% of the target population fully vaccinated with a Covid jab by 11 October, while more than 90% had received at least one dose.
Once the state hits the 80% benchmark, New South Wales residents will be free to travel overseas for the first time since March last year.
Meanwhile, Australia’s second-most populous city, Melbourne, remains in lockdown, with infections yet to hit their peak.
Melbourne has spent more than 250 days in lockdown - the most cumulative days under stay-at-home orders that any other city.
Sydney’s lockdown began on 26 June amid an outbreak of the Delta variant that spread to Melbourne.
New South Wales reported 496 new infections in the latest 24-hour period and eight Covid-19 deaths, but experts warned infection rate will rise as Sydney residents return to work and become more mobile.
New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said the infection rate and numbers of Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospitals were lower than modelling had predicted.
“So that’s positive and gives hope and confidence as we open up in a measured way we’re in a very good position to keep people safe,” Mr Perrottet said.
“There’s still restrictions in place. It’s not a free for all. It is opening up in a measured way and if everyone can look after each other and respect each other, we can get people back into work, we can get businesses open, while at the same time keeping people safe.”
Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, reported 1,612 new infections on Monday and eight deaths.
Melbourne has been locked down since August 5, and the national capital Canberra has been locked down since August 12.
Most of the rest of Australia is largely free of Covid-19, although authorities warn that Delta cannot be kept out of any state or territory.
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory – which includes Canberra and two villages – are the only parts of the country to achieve the 70% benchmark.
Canberra will reduce pandemic restrictions on Friday. More than 95% of the target population has had at least one dose and 72.8% are fully vaccinated.
Victoria remains a week or two behind. In Victoria, 85.5% have had a least one vaccine dose and 58.6% are fully vaccinated.