Melbourne’s crucial rolling 14-day average of new coronavirus cases has fallen below 50, with 42 more infections confirmed on Wednesday.
The traditional weekly “spike day” didn’t live up to its reputation this week, with Wednesday matching the 42 cases also reported on Tuesday.
The continued decline brings the city’s average number of new infections to 49.6 – finally dipping below the benchmark that it must hit before virus restrictions will be relaxed.
Sadly, however, there were also eight more fatalities, taking Victoria’s toll from the pandemic to 737. The national toll is 824.
It followed Victoria’s first day without any virus deaths on Tuesday, the first time since July 13.
In country Victoria, where COVID restrictions will ease significantly at midnight, the 14-day average of new infections also fell further on Wednesday. It is at 3.5.
Melbourne will move to its next step of coronavirus rules on September 28.
Premier Daniel Andrews said active cases across Victoria had fallen to 991 – fewer than 1000 “for the first time in a long time”.
“[That] should be a point of pride for every single Victorian who is doing the right thing, making sacrifices, staying the course,” he said.
“This strategy is working. Numbers are coming down and as they come down we have many more options.”
In other developments, NSW confirmed 10 more COVID cases on Wednesday, six in returned travellers in hotel quarantine. The others were linked to known outbreaks
Queensland had its third day in a row without any new infections. Restrictions on gatherings and visitor bans at aged care homes have been lifted in some parts of the state.
Mr Andrews said Victoria was clearly defeating its harrowing second wave of COVID-19. But infection numbers needed to fall further in Melbourne, and he ruled out moving to easier regulations in the city before September 28.
“We know this thing, part of its stubbornness is that what we do today, we can’t be certain of the outcome for 10-14 days. Which means the passage of time, as frustrating as that is, is a really important part of this,” he said.
“That’s why we can’t just get to a point in time where we’re just fractionally under that average of 14 days. It needs to be in that band of 30-50 and we need to wait a little bit longer.
“We are on track to getting to that 30-50 band and staying there so we can take significant steps.”
Mr Andrews has already warned motorists travelling out of Melbourne will face a “ring of steel” of tightened police checkpoints as regional Victoria eases restrictions from Wednesday night.
“I just say to anyone who is caught in one of those roadblocks, you know, that will be challenging, but nowhere near as challenging as this getting away from us again in regional Victoria,” he said.
“There will be a time for travel. There will be a time for tourism to get back on its feet, Melbourne out into the regions and vice versa. That is not now.”
Victoria Police will make more announcements later on Wednesday about measures to prevent Melburnians travelling beyond the city, unless it is for a handful of specified reasons.
In country areas of the state, the next step means pubs, cafes and restaurants in country areas will be able to serve people outside with strict density quotas. Outdoor gathering limits will be upped to 10.
Regional Victorians will also be able to leave their homes without restriction and all shops can reopen.
Mr Andrews said Melburnians should be inspired by the rolling back of restrictions.
“We should look to what is happening original Victoria at 11.59 tonight and be confident we can deliver exactly that outcome in metropolitan Melbourne – and we will.