Victoria records 1903 new COVID-19 cases as state prepares for lockdown exit

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Victoria has recorded 1903 new coronavirus cases as the state prepares to move out of lockdown on Friday.

In the 24 hours to midnight on Sunday, there were 1903 cases locally acquired from 69,825 tests, and seven deaths were recorded.

It is slightly higher than the 1838 cases recorded the day before. There were 32,405 doses of the vaccine given in state hubs on Sunday.

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced Melbourne’s sixth lockdown will end at 11.59pm on Thursday when the state is expected to top the 70 per cent vaccination target for people older than 16. He said this was intended to be the city’s last blanket lockdown.

In a Monday morning round of television interviews, Mr Andrews has defended the state’s approach to ending lockdown with the 80 per cent trigger for further re-opening likely to be hit in early November.

“I’m sorry we can’t do everything but we simply can’t, this is a staggered opening, cautious opening, but we are opening and that is the most important thing,” he told the morning show Sunrise.

From Friday, 10 people will be allowed in homes, up to 20 patrons permitted to dine indoors, the travel limit will be scrapped within metropolitan Melbourne, including the Mornington Peninsula, and the controversial curfew will end.

Hospitality venues will be open for indoor food and drink service for up to 20 fully vaccinated patrons, in addition to the outdoor cap of 50.

A ban on travel between the regions and Melbourne will remain in place but Victorians will be allowed to travel interstate.

New Burnet Institute modelling, underpinning the Andrews government’s updated road map, revealed the state’s fast-climbing vaccination rate almost halved the projected number of people expected to die from COVID-19 before the end of the year.

The modelling found the likelihood of peak hospital demand exceeding the state’s capacity dropped from 63 per cent on September 18 to 23 per cent on Sunday.

On Sunday, 66 per cent of Victorians had been fully vaccinated, and 88.29 per cent had received their first dose.

The return of school students in metropolitan Melbourne will also be brought forward to Friday, enabling children in years 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 to resume on-site learning a week earlier than first flagged. Prep students returned to on-site learning on Monday.

All year levels in regional Victoria will be allowed back into the classroom from Friday.

Mr Andrews said Victorians could feel proud of what they have achieved.

“Every death is a tragedy, every difficulty people have had to endure these last 20 months has been tough, I get that, I absolutely understand we have got a lot of healing and repair to do but because Victorians have done such an amazing job we are well-placed to do that,” he said.

The Victorian government on Monday will also announce changes to the way health authorities manage close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases as it begins to reopen the economy and manage the disease in a highly vaccinated population.

From Friday, non-household primary close contacts, who are fully vaccinated, will only be required to isolate for seven days if they return negative results on day 1 and 6 of quarantine. Household contacts and unvaccinated Victorians will still need to complete 14 days in isolation.

With Sumeyya Ilanbey, Liam Mannix

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