News Victorian lockdowns extended for another two weeks, curfew eased
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Victorian lockdowns extended for another two weeks, curfew eased

Daniel Andrews has announced the next stage of Victoria's lockdowns
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The Stage 4 Victorian lockdowns will remain in force until the end of September, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced, but citizens will soon be allowed a small level of extra freedom as the state continues its fight to extinguish the COVID outbreak.

Mr Andrews has outlined a three-month roadmap for how the state will recover from its outbreak, with plans for “a Christmas that is as close to normal as possible” – in what the government is calling a “COVID-normal” situation.

The Stage 4 lockdowns for metropolitan Melbourne were scheduled to end on Sunday, but Mr Andrews said the current case numbers were too high to ease the harsh restrictions.

Instead, Melburnians will largely have to stay in their homes an extra two weeks from September 13, with the metro lockdowns now scheduled to end on September 28.

Despite the metro lockdown continuing, some rules will be eased slightly.

From next Sunday, the current 8pm curfew will be eased to 9pm, while ‘social bubbles’ will be opened up for people living alone to spend time with a friend.

People will be allowed to exercise outside for two hours, up from the current one hour.

“We cannot open up at this time,” Mr Andrews said sadly.

However, regional Victoria is opening up faster then metro Melbourne, due to its low number of cases.

From September 13, regional Victoria will move to ‘step two’ of the reopening plan, the ‘bubble’ for people living alone will open up, as will pools and playgrounds, while people will be able to gather outside in groups of five.

From September 28, some more rules will be eased, with plans for further changes on October 26 and November 23.

Mr Andrews outlined the timeline in a long statement on his website, on the state government’s website, and in a set of tables shared on social media.

The reopening plan now involves a system based on “steps” – with the roadmap progressing as Victoria hits a certain number of new cases on a 14-day average. For instance, metro Melbourne will move from the current step one and on to step two after “an average daily case rate in metro Melbourne of 30 to 50 cases over a 14-day period”.

“The modelling… indicates that if we open up too fast then we have a very high likelihood, that we are not really opening up at all, we are just beginning a third wave,” Mr Andrews said.

“And we will be back in and out of restrictions come in and out of lockdown, before the end of the year.”

The state recorded another 63 positive COVID cases and five deaths in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.

Health officials have said that new case numbers would have to be around 10 per day before they would feel comfortable in easing the most consequential Victorian lockdown rules.

Mr Andrews said Victoria was aiming for a situation they call “COVID-normal”, which the state government’s roadmap defined as “no new cases for 28 days and no active cases (state-wide) and no outbreaks of concern in other states and territories”.

However, despite that definition, the Premier said Victoria was not chasing the fabled ‘elimination’ strategy for coronavirus – instead, sticking to the national cabinet’s plan of suppression.

“Once we get to that COVID normal, one case or one outbreak would not be enough for us to then reimpose rules,” Mr Andrews said.

“We are about managing this the only way you can effectively manage it, so that is a suppression strategy rather than to try and wipe it out and forever.”

Despite the restrictions easing slightly, the state’s health department reminded people that standard guidelines around hygiene, distancing, and getting tested must still be adhered to.

The Premier said the complicated set of reopening plans had been arrived at after supercomputer modelling had analysed some 1000 separate scenarios on the easing of rules – in a scientific exercise he said had “international significance” and was one of the biggest ever such analyses ever conducted in Australia.

“This job, the great honour that I have to lead our state, every day is filled with decisions that are really, really difficult,” Mr Andrews said in announcing the new rules.

“We can’t run out of lockdown. We have to take a steady and safe steps out of lockdown, to find that COVID normal.”