News Coronavirus Victoria records zero cases for 11th day in a row as testing blitz begins
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Victoria records zero cases for 11th day in a row as testing blitz begins

coronavirus
Christmas is just around the corner, and Melburnians were out and about enjoying the city's shops, restaurants and department stores. Photo: AAP
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Victorians have continued to celebrate their newfound freedom as the state extended its run of virus-free days to 11 on Tuesday.

With the 25-kilometre travel limit removed and the “ring of steel” dividing regional and metropolitan Melbourne gone, health authorities confirmed only four active cases remained across the state on Tuesday.

There was also only a single mystery case in the preceding fortnight.

Further north, NSW had no new community infections, although it did confirm five new cases in quarantined returned travellers. There were 10,058 tests across the state in the relevant 24-hour period.

Queensland had one infection in a quarantined overseas traveller.

Victoria’s good news came from almost 13,000 tests on Monday, and as the state government got ready to launch its first large-scale asymptomatic testing program across dozens of Melbourne suburbs.

Department of Health and Human Services testing boss Jeroen Weimar said the blitz would not target any particular area.

“We still feel there will be traces of the virus circulating in our community,” he told 3AW.

While the DHHS has done some asymptomatic testing throughout Victoria’s second wave, most samples have come from people showing symptoms.

“We now can’t afford to have another significant outbreak, so I need to be on top of this as soon as we get some,” Mr Weimar later told the ABC.

According to a report in The Age, DHHS recently met officials from two northern suburban councils. They will target about 500,000 people in Melbourne’s Wyndham and Hume local government areas, which have been hit hard by virus infections.

There are some reports another suburban council – Brimbank, which has also had a high proportion of coronavirus cases – will be included in the blitz.

Also on Tuesday, the Victorian government announced $169.6 million for free kinder in 2021, meaning families save about $2000 for every child enrolled in a participating funded kindergarten program.

The government will also provide $81.6 million to increase the availability of before and after school care.

Meanwhile, life in Victoria is inching towards “COVID normal”, with famous institutions preparing to reopen and many Melbourne residents stuck in traffic as they rediscover the regions.

There were reports of traffic snarls on Monday as the so-called “ring of steel” separating Melbourne from regional Victoria was taken down at 11.59pm on Sunday.

Police were still dismantling vehicle checkpoints on Monday and Tuesday, causing delays as passing drivers slowed to 40km/h.

Elsewhere, the National Gallery of Victoria said it would reopen the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square next Friday. Patrons are also likely to return to its main site just before Christmas.

Melbourne is slowly coming alive after almost four months of lockdown, with gyms, museums and cinemas able to host up to 20 people.

Outdoor and indoor patron limits have also been upped for pubs, restaurants and cafes.

Sunday’s easing of restrictions has fed debate about relaxing mandatory mask rules, with Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett expressing her surprise they weren’t changed.

Mr Weimar noted Melbourne had started coming out of lockdown less than a fortnight ago and said masks were a “critical element in safeguarding gains we have made”.

The state’s virus death toll remains at 819 and the national figure is 907.

-with AAP