Australia lifts Brisbane lockdown as COVID cases dwindle

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says wearing of masks in public still required and some social-distancing measures remain.

The easing of the lockdown in Brisbane should help Queensland's tourism industry [Patrick Hamilton/AFP]

Australian authorities will end a lockdown of the country’s third-biggest city on Thursday after reporting just one new coronavirus case in Queensland state, easing fears of a widespread outbreak.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the three-day lockdown in Brisbane would end at noon local time (02:00 GMT), but residents would still be required to wear masks in public and some social-distancing restrictions would remain in place.

“The lockdown has been lifted … but we’re not out of the woods yet so I’m asking Queenslanders for the next two weeks if we all do the right thing, we can get through this together,” Palaszczuk said at a televised briefing.

Officials had imposed the snap lockdown, covering more than two million people, on the eve of the Easter long weekend as they grappled to contain two fresh COVID-19 clusters that now total 18 cases.

The three-day lockdown ordered on Monday saw schools, restaurants and bars forced to close.

It was the latest in a series of snap lockdowns in Australian cities this year, which authorities say have quickly brought virus outbreaks under control and avoided more onerous measures.

Just one new case was detected in Brisbane on Thursday, allowing restrictions to be eased.

‘A very good Easter’

Queensland is usually a popular destination for Australian travellers during the Easter break and subsequent school holidays.

“We are expecting a very good Easter,” Palaszczuk said, crediting high testing rates over the past 24 hours for allowing restrictions to be eased.

In broader measures, gatherings at homes across the state will remain limited to 30 people, dancing in public venues is banned and businesses must maintain distancing of one person per two square metres (6.5 square feet).

The Queensland outbreak has jumped the border, with a case in neighbouring New South Wales state prompting the cancellation of the popular Bluesfest music festival in the coastal town of Byron Bay and the reintroduction of mobility restrictions in the north of the state.

Shoppers line up outside a supermarket as greater Brisbane was ordered into a snap three-day lockdown on Monday [File: Nick Gibbs/AAP Image via Reuters]

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian was due to provide an update on conditions in her state at 00:30 GMT. State officials reported no new cases on Thursday.

Australia has largely curtailed the spread of the coronavirus via border closures, a series of snap lockdowns and effective tracking and testing systems. It has reported about 22,000 cases, including 909 deaths, since the start of the pandemic, far fewer than most other developed nations.

However, some health experts have warned a slower-than-expected national vaccine rollout is increasing the risk of fresh outbreaks.

About 670,000 vaccine doses had been administered by the end of March, well below the government’s initial goal of four million.

Source: AFP, Reuters