Sydney to exit lockdown on Monday despite concerns from experts

SYDNEY : Australia's largest city will emerge from a 106-day lockdown on Monday, as the Sydney authorities confirmed that coronavirus vaccination targets had been met.

Stay-at-home orders will be lifted for the harbour city's more than five million people, now that 70 per cent of state residents over 16 have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is now very, very close," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday, hailing the reopening announcement.

From Monday, pubs, restaurants and shops will throw open their shutters and welcome back the fully vaccinated.

Travel restrictions that kept residents to within 5km of their homes will also be lifted, although state and international borders will remain closed for now.

The reopening - described by many as "freedom day" - is both "exciting" and "nerve-racking", according to Ms Alyce Murphy, general manager of The Carrington, a Sydney pub now hustling to get staff and deliveries back on-site.

She added that going from doing nothing for months and then having a few weeks to get the venue ready was "a little bit daunting".

Australia has been spared the worst of the pandemic - recording 1,379 deaths in a population of around 26 million.

There is growing evidence that locked-down Australians have been drinking more and existing mental conditions have worsened, according to a recent report by the country's Mental Health Think Tank.

Some medical experts are also concerned that New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, may be reopening too soon.

The government's own health advice from the Doherty Institute recommended widespread reopening when vaccination rates reached 80 per cent rather than the current 70 per cent.

The Australian Medical Association warned yesterday that infections will rise with reopening and underfunded hospitals risk being overwhelmed.

"New South Wales must not be reckless at this critical time," Dr Omar Khorshid, the group's president, said. "That would cost more lives, cause more suffering, and put the economies of New South Wales and the nation at risk."

But recently installed state Premier Dominic Perrottet was adamant about the reopening.

Yesterday, he brought forward the date for most schools to resume and said masks would not be needed in offices.

Both measures are designed to get people back to work. - AFP