Sydney set for reopening, anger in Vietnam over killing of 13 dogs: virus update

Sydney set for reopening, anger in Vietnam over killing of 13 dogs: virus update

People eat lunch on a park bench while surrounded by ibises as a view of the Sydney Opera House is seen in Sydney on Sunday, a day before the expected easing of coronavirus restrictions in Australia's largest city. (AFP photo)
People eat lunch on a park bench while surrounded by ibises as a view of the Sydney Opera House is seen in Sydney on Sunday, a day before the expected easing of coronavirus restrictions in Australia's largest city. (AFP photo)

Sydney was set to reopen after months in lockdown, officials said on Sunday, with businesses readying themselves to welcome fully vaccinated residents from Monday.

New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, reported 477 new coronavirus cases and six deaths on Sunday, in an outbreak that has kept 5 million people in state capital Sydney in a lockdown for 100 days.

But as the state has met the threshold of 70% of its people fully vaccinated, New South Wales was ready to ease some restrictions and reopen many businesses, said state Premier Dominic Perrottet.

"It's a big day for our state, and to everyone across the New South Wales: you've earned it," Perrottet said. "It's been a hundred days of blood, sweat, no beers, but we've got it back in action tomorrow."

When asked what would be the first thing he does on Monday, Perrottet said, "I am going to get a haircut."

Local media reported that hair and beauty salons have been fully booked for weeks to come.

"We have stretched their days and have opened up extra times in their diaries so that we can book our clients in as soon as we possibly can," Joseph Hkeik, who runs several All Saints skin clinics in Sydney, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Many social distancing restrictions, however, and limits on public gathering will remain for weeks, Perrottet said.

The New South Wales government is also working out details to resume international travel as of the beginning of November, two weeks ahead of the mid-November date envisaged by the federal government.

According to a national plan, once 80 per cent of eligible Australians are fully vaccinated, the borders, which have been closed since March 2020, will gradually reopen. Nearly 62% of all Australians 16 and older have received two vaccine doses.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was backing the New South Wales' plans to "accelerate" the reopening of the borders.

"Australia, it's been a battle of our generation. It's been long, it's been tough, there have been so many sacrifices, but we are well and truly getting there," Morrison said in a video he posted on his Facebook page.

Victoria, with its capital Melbourne in lockdown since early August, reported 1,890 new cases and five deaths on Sunday. The state is expected to reopen late in October, once 70% of its residents are fully inoculated.

The Melbourne Cup, Australia's most famous horse race, will go ahead on Nov 2 with crowds of up to 10,000 people, the state government said.

"We're going to normalise this virus," said Victoria's Premier, Daniel Andrews. "We're going to open up and we're going to be back doing what we do best."

Australia's virus cases, however, remain far lower than many comparable countries, with just over 127,500 infections and 1,432 deaths in a country of just under 26 million.

Neighbouring New Zealand, which was largely virus-free until a Delta outbreak in mid-August, reported 60 new local cases on Sunday, up from 34 the day before.

Vietnam kills 13 dogs as owners contract virus

The killing of 13 dogs in Vietnam because their owners contracted coronavirus has prompted a large outcry on state and social media.

The owners of the dogs fled the Long An province on Friday to return to Ca Mau province in a bid to escape the worse of the pandemic.

The couple arrived at a medical checkpoint in Khanh Hung on Saturday and tested positive for Covid-19. Local health care authorities then decided to destroy all the dogs, fearing the animals also had the virus.

"Scientifically, there is no evidence that dogs transmit Covid-19 to humans. Not yet, so, the decision to kill the dogs is unscientific," said Dr Tuan Nguyen, professor of predictive medicine at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia.

"It is cruel and unethical work."

Images of the dogs on the 300-kilometre journey had already been popular on Vietnamese media as the couple struggled to transport their pets on an old motorbike.

Singapore to ramp up booster programme

More than 435,000 seniors aged 60 or above in Singapore have had Covid-19 booster shots or booked them, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

On Saturday, the government announced a major expansion of the city state's booster programme, dropping the age limit for additional jabs to 30, as well as including health care and frontline workers who received their two-dose regimen six months ago. In recent days, the Southeast Asian nation has been reporting more than 3,000 daily cases.

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