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Open season: Lockdown lifts as Canberra becomes 'world's most vaccinated'

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Canberra is on track to become the most vaccinated city in the world, the ACT’s health minister says, as the city emerges from a two-month lockdown.

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Rachel Stephen-Smiith said Canberra will reach the milestone of 99 per cent of its eligible residents over 12 receiving their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, on Friday.

She told ABC Radio National that the vaccine rates in the ACT were extraordinary.

“I don’t think it surprised me that it got to the highest number in Australia, but it has surprised me how high it has been,” Ms Stephen-Smith said on Friday.

“I was confident of it getting to 90 per cent and ambitiously hoping for 95, so to get much higher than that is quite remarkable.”

The vaccine figures come as Canberra emerged from its COVID lockdown on Friday after nine weeks, with a minor easing of restrictions.

COVID-19 case numbers in Victoria remain at near-record highs, with the state posting more than 2000 new daily infections.

There were 2179 new cases in Victoria in the 24 hours to midnight, with a further six deaths from the virus.

It comes as Victoria is still forging ahead with plans to ease restrictions once 70 per cent double vaccination targets are reached, which could happen as early as next week.

Meanwhile, NSW recorded 399 new local infections of COVID-19, with a further case detected in hotel quarantine.

The state also recorded four new deaths.

Cafes, restaurants, pubs, hairdressers and gyms are able to reopen, subject to density limits, but retail will not be able to reopen to customers in store until October 29.

The end of the lockdown also led to the NSW government removing travel restrictions for the ACT, with Canberra no longer listed as an area of concern.

ACT residents can enter regional NSW but can’t go to Greater Sydney without a reasonable excuse.

Canberrans are also now able to enter Victoria, provided they apply for an exemption and isolate until they get a negative test result.

Stephen-Smith said the ACT was still waiting to hear from other jurisdictions as to when they would reopen to the ACT.

“Our issue is when other jurisdictions open to the ACT, there won’t be anyone from the ACT able to go to WA, Tasmania or Queensland for some time,” she said.

“NSW has lifted its declaration of the ACT as an area of concern and we’re working through the implications of that.”

Friday’s reopening of the ACT came with a warning from the territory’s chief minister, with Andrew Barr saying virus numbers would increase.

“We have done a lot as a community, this next step needs to be taken carefully,” he said.

“It does not mean the end of COVID risk, which is why the first step out of lockdown will be a gentle and measured step forward.”

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