Australia's most populous state eases virus restrictions on sport

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s most populous state will open up some sports facilities from the middle of June, officials said on Tuesday, after nearly a week with no new cases of coronavirus via community transmission.

States and territories across Australia have been easing social distancing regulations at differing paces in recent weeks, slowly ending a partial lockdown ordered in March in a bid to slow the pandemic.

Restaurants, cafes, bars and shops have begun reopening, in most places with limits on the number of patrons, as officials try to jumpstart Australia’s economy.

New South Wales, home to one-third of the country’s population and the bulk of its infections, said gyms, indoor swimming pools and saunas will be allowed to reopen from June 13. Children’s community sport will be permitted from July 1.

“Sport is in the DNA of everyone in Australia,” NSW Sport Minister Geoff Lee told reporters in Sydney. “Its important not only for the mental wellbeing but for their physical fitness.”

States and territories have pledged to remove the majority of social distance restrictions by July as the number of new daily cases has slowed to either single digit or low double digits.

Australia has not reported a death from the disease for more than a week. It has recorded 102 COVID-19 deaths from almost 7,200 infections.

There are 493 active cases in the country with just two people being treated on ventilators. NSW has not reported a case of community transmission for almost a week.

Officials in Queensland removed the death of a 30-year-old man last week from the tally of fatalities after tests revealed he had not died from COVID-19. The man’s death in a remote part of the country had baffled authorities, given there were no other local cases.

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