Melbourne lockdown to end, travel limited
Melbourne's two-week coronavirus lockdown will end shortly, although residents still won't be able to venture far from their homes or into regional Victoria.
Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the extended "circuit breaker" lockdown will cease at 11.59pm on Thursday, meaning people will be free to leave home for any reason.
But Melburnians will need to remain within 25km of their homes, unless working or studying, care giving or getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Mr Merlino said the measure was in place to keep Melbourne residents out of regional areas over the Queen's Birthday long weekend.
"Travel into regional Victoria still remains a no-go for now," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Under the new restrictions for Melbourne, students can return to schools, retail can reopen and hospitality venues can resume seated service.
A ban on home gatherings remains in effect, but up to 10 people can meet outdoors.
Masks will remain compulsory indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible.
Melbourne offices can reopen at 25 per cent capacity, although authorities want people to continue to work from home if possible.
The state government is also moving to make QR check-ins compulsory at all workplaces, with few exemptions.
"This is a good day," Mr Merlino said.
"But we know this isn't over yet, and until we have widespread vaccination across Victoria and across our country, the virus will still be with us."
Meanwhile, regional Victorians will be able to welcome two adult guests a day, plus dependents, into their homes from Friday, as part of their suite of more relaxed restrictions.
It is expected Melbourne will move to similar settings as regional Victoria from June 17, with all Victorians able to travel the state freely.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said there were "far too few freedoms" given back to Melburnians after two weeks of sacrifice.
"Victorians deserve to be let out of lockdown jail today, all they got was a slightly longer leash and we deserve so much more," he told reporters.
The state was plunged into lockdown after a Victorian man contracted COVID-19 while in South Australian hotel quarantine.
He went on to infect almost 100 Victorians, though it remains unclear how.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the lockdown had been an "awfully painful period" but authorities had no other option to bring the outbreak under control.
"There is really no alternative. Our national strategy of aggressive suppression is there for a reason," he said.
The pain, however, will continue for some Melbourne businesses such as amusement parks, dance studios, gyms and nightclubs, which will remain closed for the next week on health advice.
Mr Merlino said a $2000 grant would be made available for those businesses that can't reopen.
Federal government support payments for stood-down workers, meanwhile, will likely end as Melbourne will no longer be defined as a hot spot from Friday.
"We understand hardship doesn't end at 11.59pm tomorrow night," Mr Merlino said, noting income support was a responsibility of the federal government.
In an effort to ensure the state's fourth lockdown is its last, Victoria is keen to expand vaccination eligibility to people under 30, but that would depend on greater supply from the Commonwealth.
"We're at capacity. We are delivering as much as we can based on the supply that we've been given," Mr Merlino said.
Victoria reported just one new case on Wednesday. It is linked to the Port Melbourne outbreak at Stratton Finance and the person has been quarantining during their entire infectious period.
Authorities continue to investigate a link between an outbreak of the more infectious Delta strain and a hotel quarantine case, a man in his 40s who returned from Sri Lanka on May 8.
Some 28,485 Victorians were tested on Tuesday and 19,533 received a vaccine at state-run sites.
© AAP 2021