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Melbourne ends one of the world's longest lockdowns

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People in Australia's Melbourne celebrated the easing of their sixth and longest lockdown on Friday.

After the stroke of midnight, residents flocked to pubs and bars in Australia's second-largest city to mark the rollback of rules in place since early August.

Even hairdressers opened at 12 am for the occasion.

Under more relaxed rules, restaurants can seat 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors.

All must be vaccinated against COVID-19, while 10 guests can gather at homes.

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews thanked residents for their high vaccination rate.

"90.5% of Victorians have now had a first dose and 71.1% of Victorians aged over 16 are fully protected by one of the COVID-19 vaccines. That's why today we can end the lockdown."

The easing of rules will be a boost to Australia's $1.5 trillion economy, which has been pushed to the brink of a second recession since 2020.

But Victoria remains the epicentre of Australia's Delta outbreak, with close to 2,200 new cases on Friday.

Despite the fact that reopening may add more strain to health services, Andrews said the people have waited long enough.

"It is going to be difficult in the coming weeks and months, but there's simply no choice. Victorians have done what we asked of them, and now we are delivering the roadmap, opening up, safely."

Authorities also scrapped hotel quarantine for international visitors coming in to Melbourne starting November - but they have to be fully vaccinated.

Other Australian cities also flagged similar plans as vaccination rates rise.

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