Victoria’s “circuit-breaker” lockdown will end at midnight on Wednesday, as planned, after the state managed to bring another worrying outbreak of the coronavirus under control.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the move in a briefing in Melbourne on Wednesday morning, saying almost all of the Stage 4 restrictions imposed last Friday would be removed within hours.
“Because of the efforts of every Victorian – the sacrifices and the hard slog – we can be confident that slowly, and surely, we are driving this virus into the ground,” he said.
“It hasn’t been easy or straightforward. In fact, for those Victorians who are part of our health response, it’s been bloody hard work.”
Wednesday’s welcome announcement came after the state posted another “doughnut day”. There were no locally acquired virus infections to confirm, and none in hotel quarantine.
Wednesday’s double zeroes came from nearly 40,000 tests across the state.
Victoria has just 25 active cases.
The snap lockdown was imposed when the highly-infectious British strain of the virus escaped from a quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport.
The resulting cluster remains at 19 cases.
From midnight Wednesday, the five-kilometre travel restriction will go and people will be allowed guests back in their homes – although only five a day. The “four reasons to leave home” will also go.
Shops and hospitality venues will be able to reopen, and religious ceremonies and weddings are also back on – although with venue limits.
However, some restrictions on returning to offices and visits to hospitals and aged-care homes will remain. Mr Andrews said they would not be reviewed for at least a fortnight, because it would take that long to remove all exposure sites from the state’s watch-list.
Masks will also remain mandatory in many settings, although Victorians will be free not to wear them when they are outside. They will have to don one whenever they go inside, including supermarkets, offices and even at the pub, unless eating or drinking.
“These are very important announcements and I of course acknowledge the very difficult circumstances that many have raised, but there is simply no alternative to follow the advice provided and indeed – to reassert – the policy and the approach that saw us to what no other part of the world has done, defeat a second wave make sense to continue to listen to those experts and that is exactly what a intend to do,” Mr Andrews said.
“Thank you to everybody who has made this possible.”
Victoria’s testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, said more than 130,000 people had been tested for the virus in the past five days.
“That is what has given us the confidence that we have got visibility of the progression of the virus and our community, that is a phenomenal result,” he said.
There are still 4000 people in isolation as authorities stamp out the outbreak. Mr Andrews said there had been 66 close contacts for every case in the Holiday Inn outbreak.
This most recent lockdown is Victoria’s third since the pandemic began, less than a year ago. Mr Andrews refused to guarantee there would be no more.
“I can provide no guarantees because I’m not prepared to pretend to the Victorian community that this is over, there can be some notice period but we don’t have the luxury of giving people a month’s notice,” he said.
“But it’s not over. We got one pallet of vaccines turn up. That’s great news, but we haven’t got any in anyone’s arms yet. That is a process.
“I think it is the start of the end, it is not the end of this pandemic. It’s not stopping it just isn’t. And we just can’t pretend that it is.”