Melbourne residents will emerge from a tough two-week lockdown tomorrow night, with government confirming restrictions will be eased across the city.
Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the lockdown will ease as planned at 11.59pm on Thursday, saying high testing rates and exceptional contact tracing efforts means the government can announce "significant steps" to easing restrictions.
This means Melbourne will be able to move to "most of the same settings" currently in place across the rest of the state, with regional Victoria also moving to further ease restrictions.
The news comes after Victoria recorded one new locally acquired Covid case today, bringing the number of locally acquired infections in the state's outbreak to 86.
The new community case is linked to existing clusters and was in quarantine during their infectious period.
The state recorded just two new infections on Tuesday.
All of Victoria was plunged into a seven-day "circuit breaker" lockdown on May 27, when residents were given just five reasons to leave their homes.
The rapid spread of the virus then led authorities to extend the lockdown for Melbourne, but restrictions will ease at 11.59pm tomorrow.
From 11.59pm tomorrow the following changes will apply to Melbourne:
– The five reasons to leave home will no longer apply and the 10km travel limit will increase to 25km.
– The only reasons to travel outside the 25km travel limit will be for work, education, caregiving or getting the vaccination.
– Travel to regional Victoria is still banned.
– The ban on visitors to households remains in place but outdoor gatherings will be increased to a limit of 10 people.
– Schools will resume face-to-face learning from Friday.
– Masks will no longer be required outdoors unless you can't maintain a 1.5 metre distance. They remain a requirement in indoor settings.
– Funerals will be capped at 50 people and weddings will be limited to 10.
– Religious ceremonies will be capped at 50 people inside.
– Offices will be able to return to 25 per cent capacity, or a limit of 10 people, whichever is greater. People are still being asked to work from home where possible.
– Restaurants and cafes can reopen for seated service with up to 100 people per venue and a maximum of 50 inside.
– Retail can reopen subject to the one person per four square metre rule.
– Beauty services can resume for services where a mask can be worn.
– Community sport can resume training.
– Auctions can happen outdoors with max 50 people.
Merlino refuses to rule out further lockdowns
Acting Premier James Merlino has refused to rule out Victoria experiencing further lockdowns in the future, saying vaccination was the path to keeping eased restrictions in place.
"In terms of any further lockdowns, whether we are talking about Victoria, New South Wales, WA or SA this is a global pandemic and it is impacting our nation," he said.
"The path to easing of restrictions completely and living a normal life is the successful rollout of the Commonwealth's vaccination program and the construction and the operation of a purpose-built quarantine facility for our highest risk people. That has always been the path through this pandemic.
"In meantime, we make our hotel quarantine system as safe as we possibly can and if and when there is an outbreak, we absolutely run it to ground so we can get back to the life that we're enjoying just a few weeks ago."
Restrictions will be revised 'week-by-week'
The restrictions in place across the state will be revised on a "week-by-week" basis, with authorities unable to confirm when Victoria will "snap back" to pre outbreak conditions.
"It is a week by week respect, as the acting premier has flagged, we are looking aspirationally to the kind of levels that regional Victoria are moving to now in a further week. That would be my further hope," chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said.
"We can be surprised on a day by day basis around what can emerge, and we have to recognise it remains a reasonably volatile situation.
"The idea of a snap back to absolutely no restrictions whatsoever, no-one has done that after significant community transmission, it didn't happen after Avalon, it hasn't happened after other significant community outbreaks, and so we have to move by increments, safely, but with the minimum restrictions that we know will continue to control this."
Source of Delta strain outbreak uncovered
The source of Victoria's concerning outbreak of the highly infectious Delta strain of Covid-19 was revealed yesterday, with health authorities linking the cluster to a returned traveller.
The Delta strain first emerged in India and has since spread to dozens of other countries, with authorities discovering it for the first time in the Australian community last week.
At least 14 confirmed cases of the mutant strain are linked to the West Melbourne cluster.
On Tuesday, Merlino confirmed a genomic match has been found between this cluster and a returned traveller who entered hotel quarantine on May 8 after arriving from Sri Lanka.
"While we have a genomic link, we do not have an epidemiological link, and further investigations are under way to see if we are able to establish any contact between the returned traveller and these families," he said.
"There's no definitive understanding of where a transmission event may have occurred but we are investigating all possibilities from the plane to travel to hotel.