Regional Victorians will enjoy further freedoms from midnight Thursday as planned, after the state had confirmed three more COVID cases.
“The chief health officer has confirmed that the easing of regional restrictions will occur as planned tonight. That is great news
for regional Victoria,” Acting Premier James Merlino said.
Thursday’s three cases included one confirmed on Wednesday, an 89-year-old aged-care resident who is the second case at Arcare Maidstone, in Melbourne’s west.
Arcare chief executive Colin Singh said the man was a cousin of the first COVID-infected resident and lived in an adjacent room.
The other two are a child linked to a Whittlesea case and a staff member at the Port Melbourne financial company where there are several other infections.
The cluster that has shut down the city has grown to 63 infections.
Thursday’s figures came from a record 57,000 virus tests across Victoria, described by Mr Merlino as “an incredible effort”.
“We need everyone to follow the rules like we need everyone to get tested if you have symptoms and get vaccinated when it is your turn,” he said.
“These are the steps that will keep us safe in the coming days, weeks and in the coming months ahead.”
All three of Thursday’s cases were isolating ahead of their diagnosis, so there are no further exposure sites in Victoria.
There are still more than 350 sites of concern statewide. A full list is available here.
In NSW, where there have been concerns after a Victorian family later diagnosed with the virus visited the south coast last week, no community infections were reported on Thursday.
Vaccination numbers also hit a record high in Victoria on Wednesday, with nearly 24,000 doses administered.
Deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said the numbers were even bigger when all vaccination options were added.
“These are the state clinics, and combined with GP clinics and other clinics, more than 50,000 Victorians got their vaccines yesterday,” he said.
From midnight Thursday, most businesses in regional Victoria will be able to reopen. Schools will return to face-to-face learning and public gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.
Religious ceremonies, weddings and funerals can all resume, albeit with strict caps.
“Some things will not change … Visitors to the home are still not OK and we still need masks worn inside,” Mr Merlino said.
For millions of Melburnians, however, another week of lockdown looms. There will be some minor changes to their restrictions from midnight Thursday – including year 11 and 12 students returning to school and expanding the five-kilometre limit on travel to 10 kilometres.
“We don’t do this because we want to, or because it’s a choice,” Mr Merlino said.
“We do this because we have to.”
The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Wednesday he had “great confidence” restrictions would be eased at the end of next week. However, travel will still be restricted from Melbourne to regional areas over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.