Sydneysiders can go on a picnic for the first time after nearly 3 months of blockade

AustraliaSydneysiders who have had enough vaccinations are allowed to go on a small group picnic for the first time after 11 weeks of the city’s blockade to prevent Covid-19.

Sydney will allow families and friends to have a picnic of up to five people for an hour at a park or on the beach from September 13, provided they have a full course of the Covid-19 vaccine. This is the first time family and friends have gathered for a picnic in the past 11 weeks, since the Delta outbreak caused Australia’s largest city to almost be “frozen”.

However, epidemic hotspots are still subject to stricter restrictions, when people are only allowed to travel within a radius of 5 km from their homes.

While restrictions have been eased only slightly, many Sydneysiders say this has made the lockdown much more bearable. “I think the easing of restrictions gives us more peace of mind when we can go out and be allowed to see each other,” said Lisa Doyle, a woman in Sydney.

Australians gather at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney on September 13.  Photo: AFP.

Australians gather at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney on September 13. Photo: AFP.

Fully vaccinated people are expected to be exempt from stay-at-home orders in Sydney and across New South Wales, when vaccination completion rates reach 70%. At current vaccination rates, New South Wales could reach that rate by October.

Damien Carr, a Sydney resident, said the rule change was great and looked forward to more and more restrictions being lifted as vaccination rates rose.

“I can chat and hang out with more friends, but I want to see my two children. I haven’t seen my daughter in two months, even though she lives just 10 kilometers from me,” Carr said.

“The hardest thing for me and a lot of people during the blockade is not being able to see my family, whether they are 20 kilometers away or 2,000 kilometers away. That is difficult,” Carr said.

Sydneysiders cautiously hope that the new changes signal the end of 18 months of anti-epidemic restrictions being imposed, lifted and then reintroduced.

“Most of the people I know want to go out to eat at restaurants, they want to celebrate and have a birthday party,” Carr said. “It’s going to be a big party, but I don’t think we’re over the pandemic yet.”

Australia recorded 73,342 infections and 1,098 deaths, an increase of 1,732 and 7 cases respectively in the past 24 hours. Sydney authorities tightened the blockade since mid-July because the epidemic related to the Delta mutation was not controlled, despite the application of strict restrictive measures for weeks.

Nguyen Tien (Follow AFP)

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