Restaurants, cafes and bars in Australia’s most populous state reopened on Friday after a two-month coronavirus lockdown, boosting the federal government’s bid to get people back to work and the economy back on track.
The easing of some quarantine measures in New South Wales state came just a day after the national statistics office reported record high job losses and Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, warned that worse was to come.
“While there isn’t too much to be celebrating with the difficult circumstances we face, and particularly yesterday’s unemployment numbers, it is welcome sign that we are on the way back,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.
In Sydney, locals braved a cold, wet morning to catch up with friends and family over a coffee as cafes, restaurants and bars opened under the proviso that they limit the number of patrons to 10 at any one time.
“It is such a treat,” said Jess Best, who met a friend in a cafe in the city’s eastern suburbs. “To be able to sit down with other people around and chat to my friend. I can have a normal morning, not hiding away in my home.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people to remain vigilant and maintain social distancing.
“Easing restrictions has failed in so many places around the world, and I don’t want that to happen in NSW – I want people to have personal responsibility for the way we respond,” she said.
NSW and Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, reported a total of 29 new cases on Friday, a bump up from the recent daily average of fewer than 20.
Australia has recorded just over 7,000 Covid-19 cases, including 98 deaths, significantly below the levels reported in North America and Europe. Officials said on Friday that only 50 people remained in hospital.
Officials have credited lockdown measures adopted in March, including closing the country’s borders and ordering people to stay at home unless on essential business, with constraining the spread of the virus.
State and territory leaders across the country are rolling out a three-stage plan, following different timetables, to remove lockdown measures.