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Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as states and territories gradually shift from a strategy of eliminating the outbreaks to living with the virus.
Victoria state, home to about a quarter of Australia’s population of 25 million, confirmed on Sunday that it had 507 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to midnight on Saturday.
In unveiling a roadmap to easing restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that the state’s weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 per cent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, no matter if there are new cases. He said Victoria is expected to meet that vaccination threshold on Oct. 26.
As of the weekend, just under 43 per cent of people in the state and just over 46 per cent of people nationwide had been fully vaccinated.
New South Wales, which had 1,083 cases and 13 deaths on Sunday, has been fighting a delta outbreak and since mid-June has also adopted a plan of lockdowns and vaccination blitzes.
After bringing all outbreaks to zero in 2020 through lockdowns, border closure and strict public health measures, Australia has acknowledged in recent months that full elimination of the delta outbreaks may not be possible.
New South Wales, meanwhile, has hit a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 81.9 per cent for first doses.
“I couldn’t be happier with that rate,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
“We would love to get that as close to 90 per cent as possible, but we know that once we hit 70 per cent double dose and 80 per cent double dose, life will be so much better than what we are all experiencing now,” she added.
Berejiklian said some restrictions will be eased beginning Monday, meaning an end to the two-hour time limit on outdoor exercise and recreation. The following Monday, the state government will allow the reopening of public pools across New South Wales.
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 228.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.
In Asia, tens of thousands of devotees packed the old palace courtyard in the heart of Nepal’s capital on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Indra Jatra, marking the return of the festival season in the Himalayan nation after it was scaled down because of the pandemic.
The week-long Indra Jatra precedes months of other festivals in the predominantly Hindu nation.
Armed police guarded the alleys and roads leading to the main courtyard in the capital, Kathmandu, while volunteers sprayed sanitizers and distributed masks to the devotees.
Nepal has imposed several lockdowns and other restrictions since the pandemic hit. According to the country’s Health Ministry, there have been 784,000 confirmed cases with more than 11,000 deaths. Only 19 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden goes before the United Nations this week, eager to make the case for the world to act with haste against the coronavirus, climate change and human rights abuses.
At a virtual COVID-19 summit he is hosting on Wednesday, leaders will be urged to step up vaccine-sharing commitments, address oxygen shortages around the globe and deal with other critical pandemic-related issues.
In Europe, Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his closeness to the victims of a flood in Mexico, which led to the deaths of at least 17 people, most of whom had COVID-19, at a hospital in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. The pontiff was speaking to faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City for his weekly Angelus prayer.
Torrential rains caused Mexico’s River Tula to burst its banks on Sept. 7, and more than 40 other patients in the public hospital in the town of Tula were transported away by emergency service workers. An initial assessment showed about 2,000 houses had flood damage, the Mexican government said in a statement.
Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad told local media that 15 or 16 out of the 17 fatalities were COVID-19 patients. The media said the deaths occurred when flooding caused by days of rain knocked out electricity at the hospital.