How lax hotel quarantine helped unleash Australia's new outbreak
02:30 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Five million residents in Melbourne, Australia, emerged from a long lockdown on Monday, with stringent restrictions loosening after nearly two months as the state continues to see a drop in coronavirus cases.

Victoria state’s Premier Daniel Andrews announced late Sunday night that the city would enter “the second step toward reopening,” which included lifting a nightly curfew that had mandated residents stay home from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

“Seven weeks ago, our average case numbers were peaking at more than 400 every single day,” Andrews said in a statement on Sunday. “Today, Melbourne’s rolling case average is 22.1. It’s a remarkable thing – and an achievement that belongs to every single Victorian.”

On Monday, Victoria only recorded five new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours – the lowest daily increase in 108 days, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The loosened restrictions include reopening outdoor pools and childcare centers, and allowing outdoor public gatherings between two households as long as the group is capped at five people. Food distribution centers, supermarkets, meat processing plants and other workplaces will be allowed to return to full working capacity.

In total, 127,000 people will now be able to return to work under the reopening plan, according to Andrews.

Melbourne saw its coronavirus figures spike in late July and early August, peaking at more than 670 cases in a day. Andrews declared a state of disaster across Victoria on August 2, and imposed stage 4 lockdown measures in Melbourne.

Apart from the curfew, stage 4 measures also included a stay-at-home order; only one person per household was allowed to leave their homes once a day to pick up essential goods, and they had to stay within a 5-kilometer (3.1 mile) radius of their home. All schools statewide returned to online learning, and all bars and restaurants closed.

The lockdown prompted some protests; nearly 100 people took to the streets in Melbourne to demonstrate against the restrictions earlier this month, violating the stay-at-home order. Police say at least 88 people were arrested.

In his statement on Sunday, Andrews said the fall in cases and the modeling forecast showed that “our strategy is working.”

“Because with grit and with guts and with heart – we are beating this thing,” he said. “We are driving it down. We are winning.”

But he also warned that “none of these changes though are a sign we can take our foot off the pedal,” and emphasized that Melbourne residents should continue to wear face coverings.

As of Monday, Victoria has 20,150 confirmed cases and 787 virus-related deaths, according to state authorities.

With the Victoria outbreak contained, the number of cases has stayed low in Australia’s other states as well. On Sunday, only two other states apart from Victoria reported cases: seven in Western Australia, and one in Queensland.

CNN’s Isaac Yee and Sophie Jeong contributed to this report.