Australia begins rolling out vaccine boosters as more curbs ease in Sydney

SYDNEY, November 8 (Reuters) – Australia began administering booster shots of the Pfizers (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as millions of people in its largest city, Sydney, woke up to more freedom amid an accelerating immunization effort.

Australia’s vaccination rate has risen since July, after losing its original targets largely as its south-eastern part was hit by a third wave of infections triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant, which forced months-long shutdowns.

Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities and worst hit by the Delta Wave, have run through their grafts before gradually easing restrictions. Life returned close to normal on Monday in New South Wales, home of Sydney, as the state approaches its 90% double-dose vaccinations in people over 16 years of age.

“There’s a sense of optimism and enthusiasm among customers. They show up in droves and they’re not afraid to spend money,” says Rodney Sen, owner of the Barzura restaurant in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

There are now no limits to the number of fully vaccinated guests in the homes, while restaurants and eateries can allow more patrons. The stadiums can run at full capacity.

Borrowers eat at a bar by the harbor in the wake of easing the rules for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), following an extended shutdown to curb an outbreak, in Sydney, Australia, on October 22, 2021. REUTERS / Jaimi Joy

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Sen later told Reuters on Monday that the restaurant had raised its pay rates to retain and attract staff.

“The public has actually got the money to spend, but we are struggling to find the staff to serve them. This is a very well known story in the restaurant industry through Sydney,” he said.

With around 181,600 cases and 1,827 deaths, Australia’s coronavirus numbers are among the lowest in the developed world.

Most new cases are being discovered in Victoria, which on Monday registered 1,126 new cases. Neighboring New South Wales reported 187 infections. Other states and territories are COVID-free or have very few cases.

The booster doses will be given to people aged 18 and over who took their second shot more than six months ago.

Reporting by Jill Gralow and Renju Jose; authorship by Jonathan Barrett; editing by Diane Craft and Stephen Coates

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