Melbourne’s fourth pandemic lockdown will end at midnight on Thursday as planned.
However, millions of Melburnians will still be restricted to within 25 kilometres of their homes and will not be allowed to have visitors to their homes for at least another week.
The announcement came after just one new case was confirmed in Victoria on Wednesday. It was in someone linked to the Port Melbourne clusters, who was already in quarantine.
Victoria has 68 active coronavirus cases linked to those clusters, and 83 in total.
“This is a good day. Everyone should be absolutely proud of what we have all achieved together,” Acting Premier James Merlino said.
“But we know this isn’t over yet, and until we have widespread vaccination across Victoria and across our country, the virus will still be with us. So we can’t let complacency creep in, and I am asking everyone to keep doing the right thing.”
Travel into regional Victoria also remains “a no-go” for the coming long weekend.
Other rules for Melbourne after midnight Thursday:
- Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people permitted;
- Schools can resume face-to-face learning;
- Masks are no longer be required outdoors unless social distancing is impossible. They remain mandatory indoors, including on public transport and in offices;
- Funerals are limited to 50 people, weddings to 10, indoor religious ceremonies are capped at 50;
- Offices can return, up to 25 per cent capacity, or a cap of 10 people. Melburnians are asked to keep working from home if they can;
- Restaurants and cafes can reopen for seated service with up to 100 people per venue and a maximum of 50 inside;
- Shops can reopen with density limits of one person per four square metres. Beauty therapy can resume for treatments where masks can be worn;
- Community sport can return to training. Some entertainment venues and community facilities will also open, with density limits and caps.
Mr Merlino said the new restrictions were likely to apply for a week, with a further easing planned for June 17.
“Subject to the public health advice, the epidemiological conditions through the next week, we expect next Thursday night that the original metro divisions will come down and we will be able to travel more freely around the state again,” he said.
Virus rules will also be relaxed further in regional Victoria from midnight this Thursday.
Country residents will be allowed visitors to their homes, greater densities in venues, and community sport can return for training and competition. Gyms in regional areas can also reopen.
State Health Minister Martin Foley said the number of public exposure sites across Victoria had fallen below 200 as more dropped off after two weeks since a case was recorded.
At two of the biggest – a ProBuild construction site at 100 Queen Street and a site related to a jewellery store cluster at 227 Collins Street, both in Melbourne’s CBD – the vast majority of close contacts have returned negative tests.
There are a further 865 close contacts related to the outbreak at North Melbourne Primary School. About 560 have returned negative tests.
“We have seen huge responses for the testing callouts … over the last few weeks and we have seen unprecedented levels of testing,” Mr Foley said.
“[It is] the most important thing you can do, at the earliest onset of sniffles – don’t go to work, don’t go to school, get yourself tested, and stay isolated until you get your negative result.”
By some estimates, nearly 10 per cent of Victorians have been tested for the virus since the latest outbreaks emerged a month ago.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said the testing boom had found COVID cases that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
“It is an awfully painful period, I have always had in mind that we need to do what is required to make sure that we get back down to zero. There is really no alternative,” he said.
“There is no grumbling along with one or two cases. This started with one case in Wollert that has led to almost 100 cases over a period of a few weeks. So we absolutely have to drive it back down to zero.”