Victoria has confirmed 324 new local COVID cases, its highest daily tally since August 2020, as those who live in the regions prepare to emerge from lockdown.
The health department on Thursday confirmed 107 cases were linked to known outbreaks, while the source of the other 217 remain under investigation.
It brings the total number of active COVID-19 cases in the state to 2166.
The last time Victoria recorded more than 300 cases in a single day was on August 14, 2020, when 301 infections were logged.
In the 24 hours to Thursday morning, 54,242 tests were processed and 37,604 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub.
It comes as all of regional Victoria, with the exception of greater Shepparton, will exit lockdown on Friday. With cafes, restaurants and bars able to fling open their doors with strict patron limits.
About 200 police officers will be sent to patrol the edges of Melbourne and Shepparton to ensure people do not leave locked-down areas.
Booze buses, random checkpoints, roving patrols and number plate recognition technology will be used to catch out rule-breakers, rather than the “ring of steel” approach adopted last year.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent conceded some Melburnians might be tempted to try their luck, but warned they faced a $5452 fine.
“That’s a huge fine just for heading into the regional areas for a cafe meal, or a restaurant meal or a pub meal. So please don’t,” he said.
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Meanwhile, police are still looking for worshippers who attended an illegal gathering to mark the Jewish new year holiday in Melbourne’s south-east.
About 20 to 30 people from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community attended the gathering in Ripponlea on Tuesday, but just six have been fined so far.
More fines are expected in coming days.
Call for urgent Pfizer boost
In an open letter, GPs, community leaders and pharmacists in Melbourne’s north have called on the federal and state governments to send more Pfizer vaccines, according to the ABC.
The letter called for an urgent and “essential” increase to Pfizer doses in the region, similar in scale to the approach taken in Sydney’s west, to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed.
“The vaccination rate in the Hume LGA is now the second-lowest in the state, at a time when it has the highest number of active coronavirus cases in the state,” the letter said.
“This will create enormous pressure on our healthcare system and will cost lives.
“Our GPs need more vaccine supply and resources to administer them and there needs to be a surge in vaccination hub capacity and locations.
“We call on the federal government and the Victorian state government to treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves.”