Residents across Greater Melbourne are set to be reprieved after two weeks of strict Covid restrictions as health authorities grow confident there are no detected chains of Covid-19 transmission.
Victorian government sources said the city’s lockdown will be lifted as scheduled at 11.59pm on Thursday, with restrictions likely easing to those currently in place in regional Victoria.
‘We are certainly on course to lift the lockdown as scheduled,’ one senior source told the Herald Sun.
‘Unless there is a massive shock, we would be expecting that to happen.’
Melbourne’s tough lockdown is unlikely to be extended unless there is a ‘massive shock’ of mystery case, according to Victorian government sources. Pictured: people wearing face masks exercise as strict covid restrictions limit the reasons for Melburnians can leave home
Downgraded restrictions implemented in regional Victoria when it exited lockdown on Friday include mask wearing indoors, caps on home and public gatherings, and capacity restrictions on offices, venues, bars and restaurants
However, sources said Melbourne schools will likely return to in-class learning and children’s sports matches will be permitted.
It is understood the government on Monday notified key industries about the changes from midnight Thursday.
Victoria recorded 11 new coronavirus infections on Monday, but they are all close contacts of existing cases or people in quarantine.
Sources said a ‘lesser setback’, such as a couple of days of double digit case numbers, was unlikely to disrupt the plan as evidence shows the outbreaks are under control.
Thousands of primary contacts currently serving home quarantine will be screened with a 13-day Covid test in a bid to identify and contain any further cases.
The end of lockdown will offer relief for thousands of businesses who were forced to close and stand down staff when the state government introduced a seven-day ‘circuit breaker’ on May 27, which was extended in Melbourne a week later.
The insider information comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday called on the Victorian government to lift lockdown restrictions as soon as possible.
Innes Willox from the Australian Industry Group said the prolonged Victorian lockdown seemed increasingly unnecessary and harmful, with only a handful of connected cases each day.
The prime minister said he also wants Victoria to reopen, particularly for parents with schoolchildren at home.
Government sources said health authorities are growing confident the outbreak is under control. Pictured: Nursing staff at work at a mass vaccination hub at Western Health in Melbourne on Monday
‘Kids have lost enough time out of school over the course of the last 18 months and it’s very important we get those kids back to school as soon as possible,’ he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
‘I am hopeful these restrictions in Victoria will be lifted as soon as possible. I would be urging that we move to lift those restrictions as soon as possible.’
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it was a matter for the Victorian government when to lift the lockdown, but its risks and benefits were being tracked on a daily basis.
He said it was possible lockdowns may still be needed in future even with a high rate of vaccination.
‘We all hope that (lockdowns) will no longer be required into the future.’
Meanwhile, the prime minister remains under pressure to find alternatives to hotel quarantine, which was the source of the latest outbreak.
He has agreed to fund the construction of a purpose-built quarantine site in Victoria, which will be run by the state government.
Sources said the eased restrictions currently in place across regional Victoria will be implemented in Melbourne if the lockdown is lifted at midnight Thursday as expected. Pictured: The normally bustling Bourke Street Mall was virtually empty last week amid Covid restrictions
But the deal will not be easily replicated across the country.
The federal government has roasted a ‘half-baked’ Queensland proposal for a quarantine hub in Toowoomba, arguing it is too far from an international airport or major hospital.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also made it clear she will not be following Victoria’s lead.
Ms Berejiklian said NSW was already taking as many incoming travellers as it could handle.
She said if the Commonwealth wanted to boost quarantine capacity in NSW, it would need to build and run the centres itself.
The premier pointed out NSW would need 10 times the 500-bed Victorian site to cater for the number of people coming through hotel quarantine each week.
Although, she also argued hotel quarantine would no longer be viable once the international border reopened.
People are seen waiting in line at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre vaccination clinic in Melbourne on Saturday
This would require a major shift in the national quarantine strategy.
Mr Morrison indicated quarantine rules could be completely different once international travel restrictions eventually lifted, but noted it was a “very speculative position at this point in time”.
In the meantime, the prime minister has ruled out using military facilities including the Richmond RAAF base in western Sydney for quarantine.
Vaccination rates are also crucial to reopening the international border.
The federal government has sent 100,000 extra doses to Victoria as it deals with the latest outbreak.
Mr Morrison promised the boost in Victorian vaccines stocks would not come at the cost of other states.
Asked when the vaccine might be available for 12- to 16-year-olds, as is occurring in some other countries, Professor Kelly said the Therapeutic Goods Administration had a proposal from Pfizer and he suspected it would follow other regulators in approving it.
National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Linda Reynolds said on Monday night that all scheme participants aged 16 and over plus their carers aged 16 and over are eligible to receive the COVID-19 jab from Tuesday.
So far, just more than five million vaccine doses have been delivered nationwide.
RESTRICTIONS IN VICTORIA FROM 11.59PM ON JUNE 3
Changes will come in for all Victorians from 11.59pm on June 3, with rules relaxed in regional Victoria but few changes for Melbourne
Under the strict rules in Melbourne, there are a number of restrictions:
Stay-at-home order with just five reasons to leave the house:
– Shopping for necessary goods and services
– Going to work or permitted education
– Exercise with a two-hour limit
– Medical reasons and care giving
– Getting vaccinated
As well as this, there will be serious restrictions on people’s personal life, business, work and school:
– No visitors to your home other than an intimate partner. Single bubbles will be permitted. If you live alone, you can make a bubble with another person.
– 10km travel limit for exercise and shopping
– Compulsory masks indoors and outdoors unless in the home
– No public gatherings.
– Restaurants, pubs, and cafes can provide takeaway only.
– Essential retail, so supermarkets, food stores, petrol stations, banks, bottle shops and pharmacies, other retail stores can provide click and collect.
– Childcare and kinders will be open as per the last circuit breaker lockdown earlier this year.
– Approved professional sporting events will proceed but proceed without crowds.
– Schools are remote learning, except for vulnerable children, children of authorised workers, Year 11s and Year 12s
– Higher education will move to remote learning only.
– Community support and recreation, accommodation, but there will be some exemptions that apply.
– Hotels, clubs, TABs and the casino will be closed.
– Indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, swimming pools, spas, saunas, indoor and outdoor springs, community venues, drive in cinemas, amusements parks and arcades, creative studios, art galleries and museums, tourism, tours, and transport, and auctions can only happen online.
– Aged care facilities, no visitors except for limited reasons.
– In our hospitals, visitors only for end of life, to support a partner during birth, or a parent accompanying a child.
– In terms of ceremonies, funerals, a maximum of 10 people plus those running the service.
– Weddings cannot proceed unless end of life or deportation reasons apply.
– Religious activities will not proceed other than through broadcast with a maximum of five people.
For regional Victoria:
– Stay-at-home order removed
– No travel limit, but can only go to Melbourne for a permitted reasons (healthcare, emergencies etc)
– Outdoor gatherings can be 10 people
– Food and hospitality open for food only, max 50 people inside
– Retail and beauty open
– 10 at weddings and 50 at funerals