Officials in Australia's Victoria state - considered the nation's COVID-19 hotspot - reported five new cases Monday, the lowest case number in more than three months.
At a news conference, Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters the state would immediately lift an overnight curfew that has been in place for the past month. He said beginning in October, most children will return to school, and many businesses, including manufacturing, construction and food processors can reopen, sending more that 125,00 people back to work.
Andrews acknowledged the sacrifices people had made and said clearly their strategy had worked. As recently as early August new daily COVID-19 cases peaked at 725. But Andrews stressed the need to remain vigilant. "If we start doing things that we know deep down are not the right thing to do, then we can put at risk everything that we've built, everything that Victorians have given. I don't want that to happen and I'm confident it won't," he said.
Melbourne, Australia's second largest city, and surrounding parts of rural Victoria state were placed under strict "Level 4" lockdowns on Aug. 2, closing schools and non-essential businesses, imposing a nighttime curfew and prohibiting public gatherings.
Many restrictions remain in place. Public gatherings of no more than five people from a maximum of two households will be allowed, and masks are still mandatory in public. But Andrews said a further easing could take place on October 19 if the average falls below five new cases per day.
Overall, Australia has been one of the more successful nations in controlling the outbreak, with 27,000 total cases in a population of 25 million. Andrews said there are 359 active cases in Victoria.