Australia

Victoria reveals changes to lockdown rules after reporting 120 new local COVID-19 cases

Almost all of Victoria’s current coronavirus restrictions will remain in place until 70 per cent of the state’s eligible residents have received at least one vaccine dose, the state government has confirmed.

But playgrounds will reopen from 11.59pm on Thursday for children under 12, plus the supervision of just one parent or guardian who must wear a mask at all times.

In-home care, such as babysitters, will also be expanded to school-aged children from Thursday, but only if both parents are authorised workers.

The announcement on Victoria’s revised restrictions came hours after the state revealed 120 new COVID-19 cases – the biggest daily jump this year.

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday that authorities expect Victoria to reach the 70 per cent vaccine threshold around 23 September, and conceded the coming weeks would be tough.

“We are in for a difficult time, a challenging time, over these coming weeks,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“The experts are very clear with us: we will not see these case numbers go down. They are going to go up. The question is – by how many and how fast?

“What we must do is suppress case numbers sufficiently to buy us time to get people vaccinated.”

Mr Andrews said Year 12 students, their teachers, and examiners would be given priority for vaccines at state-run hubs from 7 to 17 September, with bookings open from Monday.

“The schools will contact students about how that will work for their Year 12 group and, indeed, Year 11 who are sitting exams as part of a Year 12 subject,” he said.

But no students of any age group will return to face-to-face learning for term three.

“Next week, I will outline a detailed plan for what term four will look like,” Mr Andrews said.

He said once the state reached the 70 per cent vaccine threshold, the five-kilometre radius for exercise and shopping would expand to 10 kilometres, and Victorians would be able to exercise for up to three hours per day.

People wearing face masks are seen in Melbourne, Sunday, August 29, 2021.

AAP

Outdoor personal training would also be allowed with up to two people, including a trainer, and outdoor communal gym equipment and skate parks would reopen.

Private inspections of unoccupied premises for end of lease or a new purchase would be allowed, but only one household would be permitted to attend at a time.

Mr Andrews said restrictions could ease in most of regional Victoria before the rest of the state.

“If we put Shepparton to one side for one moment and think about the rest of regional Victoria, we think we will be able to end the lockdown in the rest of regional Victoria next week,” he said.

“Exactly when, we’ll confirm as soon as we can.”

Of the new infections detected in Victoria to midnight on Tuesday, 64 were linked to previously announced cases, while the 56 others remain under investigation.

Just 20 were confirmed to have been in isolation during their entire infectious period.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said while more cases were detected on Wednesday than previous days, there were still “far less” than what Victoria would have recorded if there was no lockdown.

He said modelling suggested the state could have seen 6,000 additional cases in this outbreak if such tough restrictions had not been brought in.

“These restrictions absolutely do work, and all the hard work put in by every Victorian over the last few weeks has protected our health system,” he said.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Tuesday, August 31, 2021.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Tuesday, August 31, 2021.

AAP

“We have got far fewer cases in hospital by virtue of all of that fantastic work.”

“But to ensure we stay protected, we do have to have these restrictions in place until that first dose reaches 70 per cent of the eligible population.”

State-run vaccine hubs administered 33,455 doses in the 24 hours to midnight on Tuesday.

There are now 900 active cases of coronavirus in Victoria.

The health department announced late on Tuesday it had been notified of the deaths of a woman in her 40s from the Darebin local government area and another woman in her 60s from the Hume LGA who both had COVID-19.

They passed away at home and are believed to be the first coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Victoria this year. 

“All of us send our best wishes, our condolences and our deepest sympathies to the families of these two women,” Mr Andrews said.

The fatalities were included in Wednesday’s figures, and take the state’s overall death toll since the beginning of the pandemic to 822.

SBS is providing live translations of daily New South Wales and Victoria COVID-19 press conferences in various languages. Click here for more information.

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