Shoppers and store employees are seen at a mall in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on Monday. Photo by Bianca de Marchi/EPA-EFE
Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The largest city in Australia ended more than 100 days of lockdown restrictions on Monday after reaching a COVID-19 vaccine milestone -- but only for those who are fully inoculated.
Sydney on Monday began allowing businesses to reopen to vaccinated customers after 107 days of restriction. The change was made once 70% of Sydney's population over the age of 16 became vaccinated.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrotet said that hitting the milestone was made possible by people embracing the public health messages. Further easing of restrictions is expected once 80% of the population receives both shots.
The lockdown measures for Sydney took effect on June 26.
"The people of New South Wales have earned this moment," Perrottet said in a statement.
"Today is just a taste of the freedoms to come. ... If we keep on going, we'll ensure lockdowns become a thing of the past."
Some experts, however, question whether now is the time to relax COVID-19 rules and restrictions.
Australian National University said recently that research shows that the country's plan to ease restrictions will likely result in more deaths and longer illnesses for Australians.
"Our modelling shows if 70% of Australians over 16 years of age are fully vaccinated, with a 95% vaccination level for those aged 60 years and over, there could eventually be some 6.9 million symptomatic COVID-19 cases, 154,000 hospitalizations, and 29,000 fatalities," professor Quentin Grafton said in a statement in August.
On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a "take our lives back" plan to reopen international borders for vaccinated travelers as soon as Nov. 1.