SYDNEY • Australia’s two largest states will further ease coronavirus restrictions at libraries, community centres and nightclubs, officials said yesterday, despite recording increases in new infections.
New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state, said that from July 1, a 50-person limit on indoor venues such as restaurants and churches will be scrapped, so long as the venues observe a one person per 4 sq m rule.
Nightclubs and music festivals will also be allowed to operate from August if new cases remain low, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
The state last Saturday reported the first locally transmitted Covid-19 case in weeks, and officials yesterday said there had been nine new infections since Friday.
In neighbouring Victoria, where patronage of pubs and other venues is limited to 20 people, indoor businesses will be allowed to have up to 50 seated patrons from June 22, said state Premier Daniel Andrews.
All sports for children will resume, he said. Indoor sports centres and physical recreation spaces like gyms can host 20 people, with caps of up to 10 adults per group.
Strict lockdown restrictions and the closure of state and national borders have allowed Australia to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
With only 102 deaths, much lower than most other developed nations, the federal government has stepped up pressure on state and territory leaders to reopen internal borders, a step viewed as key to reviving the country’s economy.
“We would love to open everything tomorrow. We can’t do that. Because if we did we would be almost making it certain that we would have a second wave,” Mr Andrews said yesterday.
Although Australia’s international borders will remain closed until at least Sept 17, Health Minister Greg Hunt has said officials are exploring two possible ways to reopen borders.
“One is to use our quarantine system with international students and appropriately with people who are delivering national benefit, whether it’s in business or other areas,” Mr Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp yesterday.
The second option will be to allow bilateral travel between “Covid-safe” countries, such as New Zealand, without the mandatory two-week quarantine period, he said.