Victoria’s virus death toll has jumped to a seven-day high, even as its crucial average of new cases tumbles further.
The state had eight more fatalities on Friday, taking its toll from the coronavirus to 791.
Australia-wide, 869 people have died.
But in more positive news, there were just 14 new COVID infections, the state’s third consecutive day of fewer than 20 cases.
It takes Melbourne’s key benchmark 14-day average of new cases to 25.1, just two days before Premier Daniel Andrews outlines an easing of COVID restrictions.
In regional Victoria, which has not had a confirmed new infection in several days, the 14-day average has fallen to 0.8.
Mr Andrews will give more details at a briefing later on Friday.
But despite Melbourne’s tumbling average – now well below the 30-50 benchmark outlined in the state government’s plan to reopen Victoria – the Premier has warned the city will not take “massive steps” out of its Stage 4 lockdown.
On Thursday, Mr Andrews talked down the prospect of major changes to virus rules for millions of Melburnians, despite indicating just a day earlier than some restrictions might be eased sooner than planned.
“Sunday will not be a day of massive steps,” he said.
“The roadmap does not speak to that. It is not a day when we essentially throw the doors open.”
Under the metropolitan Melbourne roadmap announced on September 6, proposed changes include a staged return to school for some students and an allowance for public gatherings of five people from two households.
Mr Andrews said Melbourne’s figures were still “too much” to skip to “step three”, which is set for October 26.
He expects the state government and health authorities to settle on the new rules on Saturday night before publicly confirming the package on Sunday.
It came as the Premier stands by beleaguered Health Minister Jenny Mikakos after the Health Workers Union called for her dismissal. Ms Mikakos also has the backing of the powerful Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association.
The Health Minister appeared before the inquiry into Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine scheme on Thursday. Mr Andrews will face the inquiry on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the state government suffered a blow in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
A judge ordered legal advice justifying Melbourne’s 9pm-5pm curfew must be handed over to the lawyers for Mornington Peninsula cafe owner and aspiring Liberal Party candidate Michelle Loielo, who is challenging the validity of the controversial measure.
On Thursday, Mr Andrews refused to be drawn on whether there would be any changes to the curfew announced on Sunday.