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‘I Rise’ – Residents of Melbourne emerge from world’s longest lockdown

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After 262 days, residents in the world’s most lockdown city are waking up to their very own Freedom Day today, with Covid restrictions in Melbourne finally eased

At 12.01 early this morning, cheers were heard throughout the city as people took to their balconies and the streets to celebrate: take a look

For 77 days, residents have been subjected to strict stay-at-home orders, with a curfew imposed between 9pm and 5am daily, and only five reasons to leave your home… whilst retail, hospitality and entertainment sectors were largely brought to a grinding halt.

There have been violent protests, following the construction industry shutting down for two weeks, with Covid vaccines being mandated for the workforce.

What changes?

From today, restrictions on Melbournians leaving their homes will be lifted, private gatherings are allowed, restaurants, bars and cafes will re-open for seated service and life will slowly return to normal.

In this footage, you can hear excited residents singing Madonna’s “I Rise”

The city has endured six lockdowns in total, with the first totalling 43 days between March 30 and May 12, 2020.

The second lockdown was the longest, with 112 days of stay-at-home orders, between July 8 and October 27 2020.

Lockdowns three, four and five were all relatively short, and lockdown six ends today… after 77 days from August 5 to 11:59pm on October 21.

Prior to Melbourne’s extensive and extended stay-at-home orders, the city held the title of the world’s most liveable city for seven years in a row and was the fastest-growing urban area in Australia.

But as many other major cities right around the world began to open up and move back to normality, Melbourne’s retail, hospitality and entertainment sectors remained shut and the city lost its spark.

Meanwhile, countless festivals, shows, events, weddings, birthdays and dinners have been either canceled or postponed.

This is Chapel Street in the popular suburb of South Yarra when excited residents emerged from lockdown at 11.59pm Thursday night.

Today’s easing comes as the state of Victoria reaches its first major vaccine milestone, with 70 per cent of all eligible residents now double dosed against Covid-19.

Since the state government’s first declaration of a state of emergency on March 16 in 2020, more than 71,000 people have contracted the virus and over 990 have died.

“This is for you Melbourne”

World

Omicron ‘overtaking’ Delta in South Africa

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The new COVID-19 variant Omicron is causing a rise in reinfections in South Africa, a scientist studying the strain has said, though also appears to have less severe symptoms. David Doyle has more.

Omicron is causing an increase in COVID-19 reinfections in South Africa, a scientist studying the new strain has said, and is fast overtaking Delta to become the country’s dominant variant.

Professor Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, was speaking at a World Health Organization press conference on Thursday (December 2).

“Previous infection used to protect against Delta but now with Omicron that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

However, she said she and her colleagues believe new infections and reinfections with Omicron would feature less severe symptoms.

COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically in South Africa – one of the southern African countries that first detected the variant.

Speaking at the same event, the WHO’s regional emergency director for Africa, Dr Salam Gueye, said the organization was working closely with countries to step up the response to the new variant.

“In South Africa, where WHO has already a team working in genomic sequencing, we are deploying a surge team in Gauteng province to support surveillance and contact tracing.”

But Gueye also warned that only 7.5% of Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – and that 80% haven’t had a single shot.

“This is a dangerously wide gap.”

Many countries have imposed travel bans on passengers from southern Africa.

African leaders have protested – saying they are being punished for their transparency in reporting data on Omicron.

On Thursday Ghana said it had detected the new strain in 34 samples from travelers who returned to the country between November 21 and 25 – but gave no further details about those who were tested.

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Sleepover at IKEA: dozens stranded amid snowstorm in Denmark

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Two dozen staff and six customers were forced to stay the night at IKEA as up to 30 centimetres of snow trapped them inside

A furniture showroom in the department store in Aalborg, Denmark, became the bedroom of several people who were unable to safely make it home in time amidst a strong snowstorm.

Store Manager Peter Elmose told the Ekstra Bladet tabloid that people could “pick the exact bed they always have wanted to try.”

People working in a toy shop next door also took to the department store to join in on the fun.

Michelle Barrett, one of the toy shop staff, told Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR, “it’s much better than sleeping in one’s car. It has been nice and warm and we are just happy that they would let us in.” 

“We just laughed at the situation, because we will probably not experience it again,” she added.

Another approximate 300 people had to stay the night at the Aalborg airport to keep out of the storm. 

According to Euronews, the IKEA sleepover consisted of feasting on chips and Swedish cinnamon rolls in the staff canteen before watching television.

“It was a really nice evening, enjoying each other’s company,” Elmose told AFP. 

“Everyone had a full night’s sleep, our mattresses are good.”

And when the shop reopened for business the next morning, all the bedding and sheets had of course been changed.

Unmade beds following the overnight stay at IKEA amid snowstorm. Source: IKEA Aalborg’s Instagram

This comes after 61 people were trapped in a Yorkshire pub for three nights last week.

The several people trapped in the Tan Hill Inn during the storm slept on makeshift beds on the floor, watched movies, had a quiz night and enjoyed a buffet meal.

Some guests even claimed they didn’t want to leave the the pub after enjoying the 17th century hotel’s hospitality.

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World

Hong Kong to launch China style system

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As Hong Kong and China prepare to resume quarantine-free travel, Hong Kong’s government will introduce a Beijing-style health code from December 10

The Hong Kong Health Code will take note of a user’s real name, address and identification number.

The voluntary app is designed to be compatible with systems in both Macau and Guangdong provinces in southern China.

In mainland China, a mandatory health code dictates where residents and visitors can travel to and from, sharing real-time data with authorities.

The introduction of this health code system in Hong Kong will allow Chinese officials to open back up the nation’s borders with the city-state.

Hong Kong’s chief information officer also says records “won’t be transferred to mainland authorities unless the person is infected or has been a close contact”.

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