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COVID-19 cases jump in Australia

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks along a deserted city bridge during morning commute hours on the first day of a lockdown as the state of Victoria looks to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Melbourne, Australia, July 16, 2021. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

SYDNEY Australias Victoria state on Monday reported itsbiggest daily rise in COVID-19 casesthis year, while some curbs were eased in Sydney despite persistent infections.

Hard lockdowns in Victoria will end once 70% of its adult population gets fully vaccinated, expected around Oct. 26, and authorities aim to hit 80% before the Nov. 2 Melbourne Cup, Australias most famous horse race.ADVERTISEMENT

A total of 567 new locally acquired infections were detected in Victoria, the majority in state capital Melbourne, up from 507 on Sunday, and one new death was recorded. Daily cases have topped 500 for the past five days.

Nearly half of Australias 25 million people is in lockdown after the Delta variant spread rapidly in Sydney and Melbourne, forcing Victoria and New South Wales to abandon a COVID-zero target and shift to rapid vaccinations to ease curbs.FEATURED STORIESNEWSINFOProud dilawan no more: Why Erice left LP and why Robredo isnt the right leaderNEWSINFOErice fears Marcos, Duterte pals may return if Isko and Robredo dont stand unitedNEWSINFORessa on Malacañangs praise of her Nobel award: Thanks, but no thanks

Australia has largely lived in COVID-zero for much of the pandemic, recording 1,163 deaths and some 86,000 cases. About 55,000 cases have been registered since mid-June when the first Delta infection was detected in Sydney.

As the vaccine rollout gathers speed, some restrictions on gatherings were relaxed on Monday in 12 of the worst-hit suburbs in Sydneys west. Time limits for outdoor exercise were lifted, while the fully vaccinated can gather outside in groups of five.

About 82% of the adult population in New South Wales, home to Sydney, have had their first dose, against Victorias 72%, and above the national average of 71%. About 47% of the national population have been fully vaccinated.

A four-stage national reopening scheme revealed by the federal government in July urges states and territories to begin easing lockdowns once fully vaccinated levels reach 70%-80%.

Some virus-free states such as Queensland and Western Australia, whose borders remain closed to Sydney and Melbourne residents, have said they may delay their reopening plans due to cases in Victoria and New South Wales.

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