Australia’s COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 800 after Victoria reported another six deaths.
The state confirmed 37 new cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours.
The latest deaths mean the national toll stands at 803, with 716 of those in Victoria.
The number of fresh diagnoses is continued good news as the state moves closer to easing restrictions on travel and lifestyle, but Melbourne expects to see more anti-lockdown protest action on Saturday.
Metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day coronavirus daily case average dropped yesterday for the fourth day in a row, to 65.3.
It needs to fall below 50 to move to the second step in easing restrictions on September 28, which includes outdoor gatherings increasing to five people from two households, outdoor pools reopening and outdoor personal training resuming.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirmed regional Victoria, where active cases had fallen to 58, was on track to have major restrictions lifted in coming days, with the possibility of jumping two steps by mid-next week.
Both Professor Sutton and Premier Daniel Andrews said the efforts and progress there offered lessons and hope for metropolitan Melbourne.
“It is within our grasps and we will be realistic about how it’s tracking,” Prof Sutton said.
“We won’t just say the modelling tells us this and we will move at this point.
“We will follow those numbers every day and if we get to a point where it is clear that is not possible to get to no community transmission, we’ll make a call on that.
“It is also possible that we will get to a point where the numbers are higher but we’ll see where they’re occurring, why they’re occurring and how they’re occurring and make a judgment about whether five is the appropriate target.”
Active infections in Victoria have fallen to 1251, down from a high of 7877 on August 12.
While the number of new cases reported is the lowest figure since 30 were identified on June 26.
Mr Andrews reaffirmed the state’s transition out of stage four was not set in stone and modelling was not the major consideration.
“Data trumps modelling every time. Actual numbers, today’s number, not what we thought we would have today. That is much better than any assumption you can make,” he said.
“This is not an academic exercise, this is live, it’s real and we have to lock in some settings and then push to achieve those targets.
“We will keep putting the data in every single day, we’ll keep running the models and we’ll see how things unfold, day on day, week on week, and we’ll use common sense.”
But Liberal leader Michael O’Brien told reporters on Saturday the government was ignoring the advice of public health experts by maintaining such strict lockdown measures.
“We should be getting back to stage three with masks from next week,” he said.
“I see no reason why that can’t be done. That’s what the modelling suggests is a sensible move.”
Some measures are being eased, with pet grooming businesses free to resume from fixed locations from September 28.
Beauty and personal services can also resume, provided both the customer and worker can wear masks for the entire time of treatments.