Melbourne’s lockdown will be extended until September 23, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced, as the state records 120 new cases of COVID-19.
The September 23 date is when the state government expects 70% of Victorians will have received at least their first dose of a vaccine. Once that milestone is hit, the state will be subject to looser restrictions, including an expanded 10-kilometre travel limit, a three-hour exercise limit, outdoor personal training and private real estate inspections.
Premier Daniel Andrews however announced that playgrounds can reopen on Friday for children under 12, and in-home care will be allowed if both parents are authorised workers. The premier said that these are the only relaxations of the rules Melbourne residents can expect until the vaccination thresholds are hit.
“That’s as far as we can go in terms of changes effective from midnight tomorrow night. Everything else has to stay in place until on or about the 23rd of September when we get first dose 70 per cent across our state,” Andrews said.
Wednesday’s announcement followed reporting that the state government had abandoned efforts to get COVID-19 infections down to zero, instead focusing on keeping infections low while “modestly” and “cautiously” easing restrictions.
The state’s chief health office, Brett Sutton, said restrictions were necessary until the state achieved a sufficient level of vaccination, which he argued could occur sooner than September 21.
“To ensure we stay protected, we do have to have these restrictions in place until that first dose reaches 70% of the eligible population,” Sutton said.
“That is about three weeks away – it could be faster. With those 70,000 additional AstraZeneca appointments that could be filled, it could be faster.”
Andrews flagged that regional Victoria – with the exception of Shepparton, which is facing an outbreak – could see some relaxations before Melbourne.
“We do think we can have some positive news for regional Victoria next week,” the premier said.
“It will not be a full opening up, there will not be hundreds of people at the pub or the restaurant or the cafe. But there will be activity that is possible and safe, and that will be in excess of what’s happening in Melbourne because cases are very different, the epidemiology of regional Victoria is very different.”
Victoria currently has 900 active coronavirus cases. There were 56,501 COVID-19 tests processed on Tuesday and 33,455 COVID-19 vaccines administered at state-run hubs.