Victoria had no new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Thursday as life began to return to COVID-normal after the five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown.
The Department of Health reported just one new case on Thursday, an overseas acquired infection.
That result was from 30,261 test results received in the 24 hours to midnight on Wednesday. Health Minister Martin Foley hailed the continued turnout by Victorians.
“It shows the level of commitment that Victorians have displayed when we have asked them to come forward with the slightest symptoms, and when we have particularly asked them if they have been exposed at tier one or tier two or tier three venues,” he said on Thursday.
There are 25 active cases across the state.
It came as health authorities warned more positive coronavirus cases linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak could emerge as the state reopens after its shutdown.
“We may well see over the course of a few days potential positives as our close contacts of a number of cases continue to isolate,” Mr Foley said.
“We do not rule those out. But, if we do see those, it is likely to be in the personal close contacts of family members, of associated households who have been isolated and quarantining for some substantial period now.”
From Thursday, Victorian schools, offices, restaurants and shops have reopened, and people are again allowed to leave their homes for any reason.
Masks, however, remain mandatory indoors and outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible, while home gatherings are limited to five visitors, down from 15.
Public outdoor gatherings are also limited to 20 people, down from 30.
Gyms, community facilities and entertainment venues can also reopen, while religious gatherings and ceremonies are able to resume, subject to density limits.
Fans are also able to return for the final days of the Australian Open tennis tournament, with crowds at Melbourne Park capped at 50 per cent capacity.
The new restrictions will remain until at least February 26.
“We know it has been tough and we know it has been a big impact on families and businesses, on schools and the wider community,” Mr Foley said.
“In terms of the strategy behind it, it is always difficult to prove something that did not happen as a result of strategy, but the evidence is pointing to this cluster being well on top of.
“I look forward to running it down over the next week.”
Victoria’s five-day lockdown was announced last Friday amid fears the highly-infectious British strain of COVID-19 had spread from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport into the community.
The outbreak stands at 19 cases, while almost 3500 close contacts remain in isolation. Genomic testing has linked 15 of those cases with the original infections from teh quarantine hotel.
“The remaining four will not be far away,” Mr Foley said.
He said there was “still some way to go” to bring the cluster firmly under control but “so far so good”.
Victoria’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar said his team would work to “close down” the outbreak over the next nine to 10 days.
“We will see more development, and our absolute expectation and hope is that will be within the primary close contact field, the 3500 people we’ve got locked down,” he said.
“But if it goes beyond that, we’ll be up for that.”
Meanwhile, the government’s plan to extend its state of emergency powers is looking in doubt after negotiations with key upper house crossbenchers failed.
Reason Party leader MP Fiona Patten said on Wednesday she would vote against the bill and urged the government to bring forward legislation specific to the pandemic.