Residents of Melbourne will see lockdown restrictions eased ahead of schedule after Victoria hit its 70 per cent first dose vaccination target on Thursday.
Under the new rules, the five-kilometre travel zone will be extended to 10 kilometres and people will be permitted to exercise or socialise outdoors with one other person not from their household for up to four hours.
There were also greater benefits for those that are fully vaccinated, with up to five adults from two separate households able to gather to socialise or exercise outside.
The 70 per cent first-dose vaccination target was expected to be reached on 23 September, but Victoria has seen bookings surge as more shots were made available from the federal government.
The good news for Melbourne was tempered, however, by the fact that there was a concerning outbreak in regional areas in both NSW and Victoria.
The regional Victorian city of Ballarat was plunged into lockdown on Wednesday night and NSW health minister Brad Hazzard announced on Thursday that both Albury and Lismore would enter lockdown after positive cases were recorded.
As these new regional areas adjust to life under lockdown, the Australian National University (ANU) has released data showing that almost two-thirds of Australians believe that their lives have become worse during the pandemic.
The results of the ANU survey also show that more than half of the 3000 surveyed for the study are feeling negative about the future compared to the first wave of infections.
The survey, which was conducted while about half of the Australian population was experiencing lockdown restrictions, also showed that more than half of people said they were more stressed and more than a quarter said their relationships had got more difficult or strained this year compared to 2020.
Co-author of the study Professor Nicholas Biddle said that Sydney obviously experienced the worst of the change during the survey, but that many other parts of the country were also showing the strain.
“The dramatic changes in the past four months have led to declines in life satisfaction, worsening in psychological distress and an increase in loneliness across Australia,” Prof. Biddle said.
There was an increase in anxiety and worry for those who lived outside NSW, which rose from 48.5 per cent in April 2021 to 56.0 per cent in August. NSW’s worries grew from 50.7 per cent to 67.9 per cent over the same period.
“We’ve seen a big rise in worry and anxiety due to COVID-19 from 49.8 per cent in April – the lowest during the pandemic – to 60.9 per cent in August 2021,” Prof. Biddle said.
Australians fears about getting a COVID infection almost tripled during the period measured, going from 10.7 per cent in April to 30.8 per cent in August.
“Australians think that given the successes of the country early in the pandemic, the situation should be far better than it currently is,” Prof. Biddle said.
“Australians are less satisfied with the direction of the country than at any time during the pandemic. They are also less confident in the federal, state and territory governments.”
There was also a large decline in confidence in state and territory governments nationally, from 67.2 per cent who expressed confidence in April 2021 to 62.1 per cent in August 2021.
In April 2021, 45.4 per cent said they had a great deal, or quite a lot of confidence in the federal government, which dropped to 40.6 per cent of Australians by August.
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