Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has dashed hopes of an early return to freedom for millions of Melburnians, despite admitting the city is “ahead of schedule” in its battle against the pandemic.
The state reported just 12 more COVID cases on Thursday, pushing Melbourne’s benchmark 14-day rolling average down further, to 26.7.
That is well below the 30-50 range set for the city’s toughest Stage 4 virus rules to be wound back from September 28.
But Mr Andrews would promise only to announce “safe and steady steps” out of Melbourne’s eight-week shutdown on Sunday.
“Sunday will not be a day of massive steps – the roadmap does not speak to that,” he said.
“It is not a day when we essentially throw the doors open.”
Nor would he be drawn on exactly what virus restrictions are likely to change with Sunday’s announcement.
Under the state government’s plan to reopen, changes for Melbourne from Monday will include public gatherings being allowed for five people from two households.
Schools, child care and some workplaces will open, along with outdoor pools, while personal trainers will be allowed to operate with two clients.
There could be outdoor religious services for up to five people, plus a leader.
But some of the toughest measures – including the daily 9pm-5am curfew and the restriction on travelling further than five kilometres from home – are so far scheduled to remain until the next step. It is not due until October 26.
Mr Andrews said on Wednesday he was considering going further than the plan, given Melbourne’s progress in beating the coronavirus is ahead of the modelling used to develop the roadmap.
But on Thursday he said it was too early to decide if the city was far enough ahead of where it was expected to be for the trend to hold if regulations were wound back.
“Modelling is being rerun and retested as we speak to inform those decisions we will have to make on Saturday evening,” he said.
“I think we are ahead of schedule but whether that holds and whether we’ve been ahead of schedule for long enough to be able to change dates further into the road map, that’s not a decision that we can make now.
“I do hope to be able to have a bit more to say about that when I’m here on Sunday.”
The deaths of two women in their 80s were also confirmed on Thursday. The pandemic has so far claimed 783 Victorian lives, and 861 nationally.
Elsewhere, it was another positive day in NSW, with just one new COVID case to confirm. It is in a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.
Queensland had another day without any new infections.
Victoria now has just 532 active coronavirus cases, including 10 in regional areas.
Thursday’s figure of 12 cases came from more than 13,000 tests – a number the Premier said was “strong”.
“In general terms, 12 cases is another very good day,” he said.
“These numbers are coming down. The strategy is working, we are well on track on Sunday to make some further announcements.”