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Finally, there is light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel. The exit begins just before midnight on Thursday, when some of the harshest elements of lockdown will end. Hopefully forever.
Ahead of expectations, 70 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over will then be fully vaccinated, and the easing of restrictions have been brought forward by five days. Curfews will be lifted. Restaurants will re-open, with certain restraints.

Childcare returns to normal. Most students will start returning to the real school environment.
Families and friends at last will be able to meet from across the entire breadth of metropolitan Melbourne as travel distance restrictions are eased.

Daniel Andrews announces an end to lockdown 6.Credit:Penny Stephens

For many, the most important of all: 10 visitors, including dependents, will be able to visit your home each day. Once 80 per cent of eligible Victorians are vaccinated – expected in the first week of November – there will be no restrictions on intrastate travel and retail will reopen for in-store services. There is a short while to go before Victorians will be able to attend major events as a community, hear live music, and participate fully in life again.

But this is a major step. While the people of Melbourne have weathered the lengthiest period of being in lockdown, Victorians have embraced vaccination as the one and only way out.
Almost about 90 per cent of the state’s eligible population aged over 16 years have received one dose of vaccination, and 70 per cent are expected to have been double-dosed this week.

The path being charted by the state government and health authorities may seem counter-intuitive considering case numbers are bumping above 1800 a day and hospitals are under pressure. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton concedes a lot of people will be exposed to COVID-19 in the weeks ahead, but what looms is “manageable”.

That is because the hospital system and health networks, which have been under tremendous pressure, have generally been ramped up and services expanded in anticipation of a surge. More potently, though, new modelling by the Burnet Institute indicates the effects of vaccination have been positive: COVID-related hospitalisations are likely to be less than originally expected; the length of stays in hospital are shorter; the severity of the illness for fully vaccinated people is less than what was predicted.

Booster shots may be necessary in the months ahead, but what this state – indeed, the nation – has learnt since the 2020 outbreak should help keep any new eruption at least controllable.

Premier Daniel Andrews now says that despite current high daily case-loads, the robust vaccination rates in Victoria and NSW opens the way for our cross-border travel strategies, domestic and international, to become “aligned”. That would be a huge benefit for the economies of these powerhouse states and, indeed, for the nation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an enormous physical, mental and economic toll. It has kept families apart, cruelled livelihoods, closed businesses, forced people to bunker down with scant face-to-face social contact. It has devastated government budgets.

The path back to a healthy, vibrant population and a vigorous economy will not be straight-forward; there may be hurdles and frustrations and inevitable pressures on our health system.

But this is a time for relief, and a sense of achievement.

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