Fully vaccinated Victorians will enjoy a raft of new freedoms from 11.59pm tonight after the state reached its 70 per cent double dose vaccination goal.
But the Australian state also recorded its second highest number of Covid cases today, with 2232 infections and 12 deaths.
This is the second highest number of cases recorded anywhere in Australia throughout the pandemic, coming in under the 2297 infections recorded in Victoria on October 14.
NSW has also seen a rise in infections, with 372 new cases and one death recorded on Thursday.
This is a jump from the 283 new infections and seven deaths yesterday and follows warnings that numbers will likely rise due to the state's eased restrictions.
Victoria hits vaccine milestones
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Victoria has surpassed its 70 per cent vaccination milestone, with 70.51 per cent of residents over 16 now fully vaccinated.
Morrison made the announcement on Sunrise, also revealing that Tasmania has reached the 70 per cent double vaccination target as well.
"The longest road has been journeyed in Victoria and that long road really starts to open up tonight. But as always, all states and territories, coming from a different starting point, will all cautiously find their way back," he said.
"This is not a big opening in that first step. In the Australian way we move cautiously but deliberately so we can safely open up so we can remain open, safely. That is the key. We want to stay open once we get open."
Victoria also hit its second major vaccination milestone for the day, with 90 per cent of residents over the age of 16 now having their first dose.
"That is quite incredible and that means we are on track to become one of the most highly vaccinated jurisdictions in the world," Deputy Premier James Merlino said.
New freedoms for Victoria
Hitting the vaccination target will trigger a raft of new freedoms for fully vaccinated residents tonight.
A range of restrictions will ease from 11.59pm tonight, including an end to Melbourne's lockdown.
The new freedoms include:
• Removing the reasons to leave home and curfew for Melbourne
• Up to 10 visitors to a home per day, including dependants
• 15 people can gather outdoors in Melbourne (20 in regional Victoria)
• Community sport training returns
• Pubs and clubs can open to 20 vaccinated people indoors and 50 outdoors. Entertainment venues can open to 50 vaccinated people outdoors
• In regional Victoria, pubs, clubs and entertainment venues can open indoors to 30 vaccinated people
• All school students return onsite at least part time in Melbourne and full time in regional Victoria
• Funerals and weddings are allowed with 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors in Melbourne and 30 indoors and 100 outdoors in regional Victoria
• Hairdressing, beauty and personal care services can open to five vaccinated people indoors
When announcing the eased restrictions over the weekend, Premier Daniel Andrews said this would mark an end to widespread lockdowns.
"Today we're moving beyond [statewide lockdowns] – we're not locking people down any more across the board, instead we're locking people out who have not got vaccinated," he said.
Big fines on the line as Victoria set to reopen
With Victoria's long-awaited 'Freedom Day' just hours away, businesses have been warned ignoring the state's strict mandatory jab rules could result in a whopping A$109,000 fine.
A team of Covid inspectors will be patrolling venues across the state tomorrow, checking whether they are complying with Victoria's double vaccination restrictions.
Melbourne will come out of lockdown at 11.59pm tonight, with fully vaccinated residents once again allowed to visit hospitality venues.
The Herald Sun reports the Covid inspectors have the power to conduct audits of the vaccination status of employees via a business' records.
This means individual employees and customers won't be asked to provide proof of vaccination to the officers, with the onus instead remaining with the businesses to check everyone's vaccination status.
The joint operation between the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) and Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) will see up to 100 teams of officers deployed at any one time.
These officers will monitor compliance, including ensuring that venues are correctly collecting, recording and keep vaccination information.
These Covid officers will have the power to issue infringement notices to venues that flout the rules, the publication reports, including fines of up to A$109,000 for serious noncompliance.
Why Victoria's cases keep peaking on Thursdays
Another week, another spike in local Covid-19 cases in Victoria.
The state recorded 2232 new cases and 12 deaths today after 1841 cases yesterday.
It was a similar story last Thursday where Victoria recorded 2297 new cases — up more than 700 cases on Wednesday's daily figure of 1571.
It is a strange phenomenon but epidemiologists say it can be explained.
Nancy Baxter, the head of Melbourne University's School of Population and Global Health, told the ABC on Thursday afternoon that cases were being driven by weekend activity.
"You are talking about the peaks happening on Thursdays and they do likely reflect things that happen on the weekend and we've had other press conferences that they are identifying a lot of the small gatherings at homes so it's definitely driving the outbreak.
"That's concerning because it's going to continue to drive the outbreak and likely more so once we relax some restrictions."
She said it was not ideal to be reopening the state with more than 2000 cases a day.
"I would dearly have loved the numbers to have been coming down and for us to have several weeks of them coming down, similar to (the situation) NSW was fortunate to find themselves in when they came out."
'So sick he can barely speak': New Covid case in Queensland
Meanwhile Queensland has recorded one new community Covid-19 case, with authorities saying they are "concerned" about the new infection detected on the Gold Coast.
"Now this is a wake up call for the Gold Coast," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
"The issue with this gentleman is that they were not vaccinated. They were potentially infectious in the community for up to 10 days."
The Premier urged anyone with the slightest symptoms to go and get tested.
Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young revealed the unvaccinated man in his 30s is an Uber driver, saying he had become so sick that he was struggling to even speak with contact tracers.
"He is so sick that we are having difficulties talking to him and getting information from him Dr Young said.
The man lives at an apartment complex in Broad Beach and is understood to have been in Melbourne on October 10 before coming back to Queensland.
"He started to develop symptoms on October 11, which means his infectious period goes back to October 9, but we believe he was in Melbourne at that stage," Dr Young said.
"He became increasingly unwell, presented to the emergency department."
Authorities are working closely with Uber to get information about whether the man had passengers during his infectious period.
Dr Young also revealed the man hadn't used his QR code check in system when visiting venues since September.
"It is hard to work out where he has been in the community, " she said.
You don't have 10 days': Urgent warning for Queenslanders
Queenslanders had only 10 days to get their first Covid jab in order to make sure they were fully vaccinated when the borders reopen on December 17, Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young told them.
But that advice changed today when the state recorded a concerning new case of Covid-19 in a man in his 30s who had been infectious in the community for 10 days.
With the new case on the Gold Coast, Dr Young warned people in the area they can no longer afford to wait 10 days.
"There are plenty of capacity in the Gold Coast to get vaccinated, as there is across our entire state. That is the most important thing. Every single person needs to do it," she said.
"Gold Coast, you do not have 10 days. You need to do it immediately.
"The rest of the state, we have a 10 day window to get everyone vaccinated because then you will be fully protected when we open up our borders in December. This is so important."
Dr Young also urged everyone to go and get tested even if they have the slightest symptoms, begging people not to wait "like this poor gentleman has and is so breathless that he can hardly talk to us".
Australia hits major vaccine milestone
Meanwhile Australia has reached a huge vaccination milestone, bringing them closer to becoming one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced 70 per cent of the eligible Australian population was now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with first dose rates sitting at 85.5 per cent.
"That is continuing to grow and this is a testament to the work of Australians and it is a testament to our health professionals and everybody that has been involved in the vaccination programme so to Australians, I want to say thank you and congratulations, but keep going," he said on Wednesday.
"There are many people still to come forward for first doses and there are many people still to come back for their second doses and that second dose programme is providing real and significant protection."
Supermarkets reveal new vax mandates
Woolworths, Coles and Aldi have announced all staff will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to continue working in their stores.
The three supermarket giants are the latest in a string of Australian major corporations that have announced compulsory vaccinations for staff in recent weeks.
All three publicly released their new rules within minutes of each other on Thursday morning.
For Woolworths staff, unless public health orders come into effect sooner, the proposed timeline for the full vaccination requirement of staff in the ACT, NSW, the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia is January 31 next year and March 31 in the other states.
Coles said it would require team members to be vaccinated over coming months as a condition of working at any of their stores, distribution centres and other sites in NSW, the ACT and Victoria, unless they have a valid exemption.
ALDI Australia chief executive Tom Daunt said it was their view that requiring all employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the future is the best measure to ensure the health and safety of teams and customers.
He said they had commenced consultation with all employees to gather their input on the proposal.
NSW makes $96m vaccine announcement
The NSW government has revealed it will begin making its own RNA and mRNA vaccines locally, with the development of a new A$96 million facility.
The facility is expected to include clinical spaces and laboratories that will be used to trail vaccine manufacturing capabilities.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said today's announcement "demonstrates the shift of the NSW government over the last few years" to a focus on research and development, particularly around medicine and medical research.
"We believe NSW can be world leading in this space, but we can't do it alone," he said.
"From these investments today, many great things will come."
The announcement comes three months after the NSW government entered into a partnership with the RNA Bioscience Alliance which is made up of all universities in the state.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean described the investment as a "A$96 million booster shot in the arm of our economy in our medical research and bio science sectors".
"By investing in our best researchers and scientists we are investing in a future for NSW," he said.
"We want to see that grow and we want to great the jobs of the future. We also want to make sure that we're protecting our economy from future threats like a pandemic."