Diners eat outside a cafe in St Kilda while policemen stand in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday. Reuters
Melbourne residents flocked to the city's inns, restaurants and hair salons in the early hours of Friday as Australia's second-biggest city, began its first weekend out of the world's longest string of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Despite rain on Saturday morning, people queued for barbers and breakfast restaurants, all of which are open only to the fully vaccinated.
Late on Friday, people broke into a spontaneous street party in Melbourne's southeast and many rejoiced with their first drink in months in a pub with friends, social media footage showed.
Diners enjoy a Japanese teppanyaki meal in Melbourne's Chinatown. AFP
Australia's second-largest city has so far endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of restrictions during six separate lockdowns since March 2020, representing the longest cumulative lockdown for any city in the world.
Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, last year went through 234 straight days of lockdown.
In Melbourne, people were seen cheering and clapping from their balconies, while cars honked horns continuously at 11:59pm on Thursday when lockdown restrictions in place since early August ended.
Many venues, including food outlets and even haircutters, opened at the unusual hour for the occasion.
Adam Taylor and his staff prepare coffees at The St Kilda Dispensary cafe on Saturday. Reuters
While small but violent anti-vaccinations protests have taken place in Melbourne and other cities this year, Australians overwhelmingly support vaccinations, with polls showing the percentage decisively opposed in single digits.
Nearly 72% of adults in Australia are now fully vaccinated and nearly 87% have received one shot. According to a national strategy, lockdowns will be unlikely once 80% of Australians are fully inoculated.
Sydney, Australia's largest city, celebrated its reopening two weeks ago, after reaching the vaccination threshold of 70%. On Saturday, New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, recorded 332 COVID-19 cases and two deaths.
Other states and territories have recorded few or zero cases in recent weeks and are continuing to reopen their economies, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison told residents not to become complacent.
Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement on Thursday that “Melbourne — and surrounding Victoria — will join Sydney in locking down, bringing the total number of Australians under stay-at-home orders to around 12 million."
A vaccination centre at the Melbourne Town Hall would be shut until Monday after several of its staff were physically and verbally abused on their way to work, operator cohealth said on Thursday.
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