Australia’s most populous state doubles public transport capacity as coronavirus curbs ease

FILE PHOTO: Tourists pose for photos at a Three Sisters rock formation lookout in Blue Mountains National Park in the wake of regional travel re-opening as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are eased in New South Wales, in Katoomba, Australia, June 5, 2020. Picture taken June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY, June 16 (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state said on Tuesday it would nearly double its public transport capacity starting July 1, allowing more locals to avoid driving as it continues to ease curbs designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The relaxation of rules will allow more passengers to board buses, trains and ferries, whose capacity the state restricted last month.

Additional ‘green dot’ stickers showing passengers where to sit and stand will be put on buses, trains and ferries to help people adhere to social distancing rules, New South Wales (NSW) premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a media briefing.

But she urged people to travel outside rush hours if possible to avoid any community spread of the virus.

NSW, which includes Sydney, has been slowly easing coronavirus restrictions to revive its economy from the coronavirus-induced hibernation.

Starting July 1, a 50-person limit on indoor venues such as restaurants and churches in the state will be scrapped, so long as they only allow one person for every four square metres.

The rate of new coronavirus cases in the state significantly slowed during the last week under strict lockdown measures, but the curbs have severely hurt the economy.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet plans to say in a budget update later Tuesday that the state’s economy is expected to shrink 10% and lose nearly 275,000 jobs this financial year, local media reported.

The state overnight recorded three new coronavirus cases, all of which are returned travellers in quarantine.

Neighbouring Victoria reported nine new cases, including a grade 5 student at a public school.