More than a million regional Victorians have woken to more freedoms as lockdown lifts for all areas outside Melbourne except Shepparton, although restrictions remain.
People in country Victoria regions can travel as far as they want from their homes after the stay-at-home order and five-kilometre travel limit ended at midnight on Thursday.
Residents of Greater Shepparton will learn next week if their lockdown – which followed a recent COVID outbreak in the central Victorian city – can also end.
It comes after a regional train driver tested positive for COVID-19 in Victoria after working with a trainee and visiting depots in Gippsland and Melbourne.
The V/Line driver, who caught the virus from his partner, worked throughout last weekend, Monday and Tuesday but was asymptomatic.
There has been no effect on train services and the regional train network’s Southern Cross and Traralgon depots are being deep-cleaned.
“We are closely monitoring staff availability and we are working hard to minimise any impact to services,” a V/Line spokesman said.
While businesses can reopen in regional Victoria, strict rules applying to the hospitality industry make it unviable for many venues to open.
Retail businesses must comply with a density limit of one person per four square metres, but hospitality venues can have only a maximum of 10 people seated inside and 20 outside.
Schools can reopen from Friday for years prep to two and year 12. All other students must continue their studies remotely.
Also coming into effect on Friday is a relief for some Victorians who have been stuck living in a NSW local government border area.
Victorians who have spent at least 14 days in those regions – from August 25-September 8 – can apply for a permit exemption category to come home.
Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews has said detailed modelling from the Burnett Institute forecasting the Victorian outbreak’s peak and how the healthcare system will respond will be released in the next week.
He said there was an “enormous amount of work” being done to prepare Victorian hospitals for a surge in cases.
The state had 324 more local COVID cases on Thursday, including 195 from Melbourne’s north.
The outbreak in the northern suburbs has led to calls from GPs, pharmacists and community leaders for a Pfizer vaccine blitz in the area, at more culturally appropriate sites.