THE NSW government yesterday announced a major easing of COVID-19 restrictions, with various venue attendance caps expanded or removed, and the "one person per four square metres" rule replaced with a "two square metre" rule , except in gym classes and nightclubs.
The NSW move follows Queensland opening its borders on Tuesday. The Victorian government, having last eased its protocols on November 22, says it expects to move to what it calls "COVID Normal" sometime this month.
Some self-isolation protocols still apply in relation to South Australia's "Parafield cluster", but the morning bulletins from most state and territory governments are now led not by case numbers, but by the number of days since a community case was last reported.
While Australia prepares for a hopefully COVID-free Christmas, global coronavirus case numbers continue to rise by about 600,000 a day.
Despite progressively higher survival rates as more is learned about the virus and its impact on the body, daily fatalities are also noticeably higher, with the latest record, of more than 12,700 deaths in a day, on November 24.
With the leading vaccine developers inching closer to approval, there is talk of substantial numbers of doses being ready for delivery before the end of the year.
While that would be a welcome Christmas present - especially in the northern hemisphere winter where even a White Christmas will carry a darkened mood - it will take months, at the very least, for an immunity effect to take hold.
Recently, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other leaders have been talking about Australia's "success" against coronavirus, and there is no doubt we have done well by international comparison.
But as we have pointed out before, our status as a single-nation island, free of shared borders and well away from the massive movement of refugees into Europe and North America, has surely been our greatest advantage.
Christmas is just three weeks away.
The international record shows that the lifting of coronavirus restrictions has almost always resulted in the virus returning - often roaring - back.
That is not to criticise Australia's staged return to near normality, but it is to hope that our luck, if that's the word, holds until December 25.
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