By One News/TVNZ and is republished with permission
Victoria will cautiously exit its statewide lockdown, but health authorities say the war with the highly-infectious Delta coronavirus variant is not over.
Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the lockdown – the state’s fifth in 17 months – will lift at 11.59pm today, local time, scrapping stay-home orders and the five-kilometre travel limit.
“It’s not over. We’ve got to be vigilant against this virus, the Delta strain, in the days and weeks and months ahead until we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” he told reporters today.
Under the eased restrictions, schools can welcome back students for all year levels, hospitality venues can reopen for seated service and outdoor gatherings are allowed for up to 10 people.
Live music venues, dance classes and gyms can also throw open their doors with a strict density limit of one person per four square metres.
But many onerous restrictions will linger as health officials remain wary of the Delta variant that sparked the shutdown.
“We’re on the cusp of containing our second Delta outbreak, this one being a really significant one with close to 200 cases” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.
“But we can’t call it mission accomplished yet.”
Victorians won’t be able to have visitors to their home and masks remain compulsory indoors and outdoors.
In addition, no crowds will be allowed at sports events or theatres and visitors to snow fields must carry proof of a negative test within 72 hours of arrival, unless they are a child under 12.
The restrictions will remain in place until August 10.
With the situation worsening in NSW, four local government areas will be thrown out of the border bubble.
Residents of Wagga Wagga, Hay and Lockhart and Murrumbidgee councils won’t be able to freely cross into Victoria from Wednesday.
Andrews said he didn’t enjoy locking out the four communities but “there’s a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so I have no choice but to make these changes”.
The statewide lockdown was called on July 15 and initially slated to run five days before it was extended to 11.59pm on Tuesday, as contact tracers struggled to chase down people before they turned positive.
Ten new local Covid-19 cases were reported in Victoria today, all linked to current outbreaks and in isolation for their entire infectious period.
With no cases spending any time in the community for three days, no new exposure sites have been listed since Saturday.
There are now 190 infections linked to the outbreak, which was seeded by a Sydney removalist crew who passed the virus on to residents of Maribyrnong’s Ariele Apartments and a separate family who returned from NSW.
The state’s COVID commander Jeroen Weimar said one of the removalists had been handed a AU$200 (NZ$210) fine for not wearing a mask, in line with health directions.
“I’m pleased we can draw a line under this incident as we start to draw a line under the subsequent outbreak,” he said.
After reviewing the health department’s investigation, Victoria Police said there was no evidence of other offending and would not take any further action.
“This matter is closed from a police perspective,” a spokesman said.
More than 24,000 test results were received in the 24 hours to midnight, while 15,677 vaccine doses were administered at state-run sites during the same period.