Australia

Victoria records 779 COVID-19 cases as second anti-lockdown protester tests positive

Victoria reported another 779 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections and two further deaths on Sunday.

The state is now host to more than 8,000 active cases, but Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday confirmed a number of rules would soon relax, in accordance with the state’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Restrictions will ease slightly across Victoria from Wednesday, when the state is forecast to have vaccinated 80 per cent of its population with at least one jab.

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“I’m not overselling this. They are modest things and it’s not freedom day,” he said.

“It’s not the end of the lockdown (but) that is getting closer every day.”

The state is expected to pass 80 per cent single dose vaccination coverage on Tuesday, and from 11.59pm outdoor recreation activities like golf and tennis are back on the table.

Residents of locked down areas will be able to travel 15km from home, up from 10, while patron caps in regional venues will increase from 20 to 30.

Masks will also not be required for some beauty services like facials and beard trimming in regional Victoria.

There was also good news for the city of Geelong, which will be released from lockdown at midnight, despite the diagnosis of six new cases on Saturday.

All cases were linked.

“There are still cases there and perhaps in another environment in previous times, we would have stayed in lockdown to drive those numbers down to a hard zero,” Deputy Chief Health Officer Deb Friedman said.

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“But that’s no longer in line with our management of this virus, under the national plan.”

Restrictions will also ease on the state’s Surf Coast from midnight on Sunday, but the Mitchell Shire will remain in lockdown.

All three regions were plunged into lockdown a week ago after positive coronavirus cases emerged.

“Mitchell Shire being directly adjacent to some of the local government areas that have the highest rates of COVID anywhere in Australia is perennially vulnerable to these incursions,” Ms Friedman said.

A series of “vaccinated economy” trials were also announced on Sunday, to begin across some regional Victorian businesses from 11 October.

Select businesses in Buloke, Pyrenees, Bass Coast, Bendigo, East Gippsland and Warrnambool will test systems in the fortnight before Victoria is due to hit the 70 per cent double dose vaccination mark.

The 20 trial sites will be selected based on vaccination rates and case numbers.

Among the issues to be explored during the trials are vaccine status verification and how to help businesses safely deal with aggressive customers who are denied service.

“The trial is partly about ensuring that we understand all of those different pressure points and all those different possibilities so that by the time we get to 70 per cent and 80 per cent we have a much better idea of what is secure and what is not,” Industry Support and Recovery Minister Martin Pakula said.

The premier also hinted vaccination could soon be required for hospitality workers, but said the chief health officer is still considering the issue.

“It would be strange if you weren’t allowed to stand at the public bar to have a beer unless you are vaccinated, but the person who was pouring the beer didn’t have to be vaccinated,” he said.

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