Australia’s COVID-19 hotspot relaxes curbs after 9th day with zero cases

(Reuters) – Australia’s second most populous state, the epicentre of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, will relax restrictions after recording its ninth consecutive day with no infections, state Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday.

Andrews said people will from Monday be allowed to freely travel between Victoria’s capital Melbourne and regional areas of the state, while capacities at restaurants and pubs will be nearly doubled to 70.

Further easing of curbs, allowing people to have 10 visitors to their homes, will begin on Nov. 22, Andrews said.

The relaxation of restrictions comes as Victoria’s stretch without new coronavirus infections left just four active COVID-19 cases.

Still, Andrews urged caution.

“Nine days of zero is not a vaccine,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne. “If we let our guard down then it will be back.”

The results are a far cry from the situation just a few months ago. Daily cases in the state peaked at more than 700 infections in early August, which saw Victoria place nearly 5 million people around Melbourne into a stringent lockdown for more than 100 days.

Australia has recorded just over 27,600 novel coronavirus infections and 907 deaths, far fewer than many other developed countries.