“Bright day” as Victoria’s restrictions to ease
VICTORIA has recorded 1,656 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, as the state prepares for further restrictions to ease.
The health department today (Friday, October 28) confirmed the figures, which bring the total number of active cases in the state to 23,730 and the death toll from the latest outbreak to 282.
There are 738 people in hospital, with the seven-day average at 773. Of those, 130 are in intensive care with 85 on a ventilator.
There were 70,180 tests processed and 20,361 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs yesterday (Thursday, October 28).
About 78.5 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 are now fully vaccinated.
Creative Industries Minister Danny Pearson says the state will hit its 80 per cent vaccination target at the weekend, but restrictions will ease regardless at 6pm on Friday.
“Either way, the eased restrictions will be coming in tonight to ensure Victorians can make the most of this great long weekend,” he told reporters from the stage of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, ahead of a concert on Saturday night.
At 6pm, the border between Melbourne and the regions will come down, masks will no longer need to be worn outdoors, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail can reopen for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits will increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Outdoor events including weddings and funerals will be able to host 500 fully vaccinated people, while outdoor community sport can resume.
“Tonight, our bright metropolis in our great state comes back to life,” Mr Pearson said.
“Six o’clock tonight is dividend day, it’s a time where we can start to get back and recapture some of the things that we’ve been missing so much over these last 19 months.”
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said despite the grey skies, Friday was a “very bright day”.
“All of these things are essentially only possible because of the vaccination coverage that we’ve been able to get to,” he said.
“Vaccines have gotten us to this point and they’re going to get us to all the additional opening steps that we’ll get to.”
Professor Sutton said the state was on track to be among the “top five” vaccinated jurisdictions in the world, with 65.5 per cent of all Victorians, which includes children under 12 who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, fully vaccinated.
“That’s a higher vaccination rate than the US, Austria, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Israel,” he said.
He said 78.3 per cent of all Victorians have had at least a single vaccine dose, “overtaking the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Japan just to name a few”.
With greater capacity and intrastate travel allowed, tourism-starved regional operators are preparing for a busy weekend.
Bells Beach Brewing co-owner Adam Smith expects his Torquay and Geelong venues to be full and says a group of 30-odd people from Melbourne are making the trip.
“It will almost be like a teary reunion on Saturday when they come in,” he said.
Traffic is expected to be heavy out of Melbourne this afternoon, though police have said they will exercise some discretion if people decide to leave the city before 6pm.
Victoria’s wild weather has also forced the closure of 30 testing sites and six vaccination clinics, including the Melbourne Showgrounds vaccination hub and Melton and Wyndham Eagle Stadium drive-through sites.
Those with appointments will be contacted.
Meanwhile, Victoria is also tightening medical exemption rules for COVID-19 vaccinations from 6pm today, in a crackdown on people doctor shopping and pressuring GPs.