Vic virus rules ease, as cluster grows

Brett Sutton says easing restrictions is a step forward but admits Victorians are doing it tough.
Brett Sutton says easing restrictions is a step forward but admits Victorians are doing it tough.

Melbourne's 25km travel limit will be lifted and other restrictions are set to ease, as a COVID-19 cluster continues to grow at an inner-city townhouse complex.

Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the further easing of COVID-19 restrictions for Melbourne and regional Victoria from 11.59pm on Thursday.

People who live in Melbourne will be able to travel to regional Victoria, host two adult visitors plus their dependents per day and gather outdoors in groups of 20.

Masks will remain mandatory indoors, but will only be required outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

Businesses such as gyms and indoor entertainment venues will be able to reopen, while density limits at offices, cafes, restaurants and pubs will increase.

In regional Victoria, home visits will increase to five adults plus their dependents per day, while up to 50 people can gather outdoors.

Hospitality businesses, community centres, indoor entertainment and religious venues will be capped at 300 people, while outdoor entertainment and sport are restricted to 1000.

Up to 7000 fans from Geelong and surrounding areas will be able to attend Friday night's AFL match at GMHBA Stadium between the Cats and the Western Bulldogs.

Crowds, however, are still not allowed in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Melburnians travelling to Victoria's alpine resorts will be required to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival, for the duration of the ski season.

Mr Merlino said restrictions will ease further in a week's time if COVID-19 cases continue to remain low.

"We have to ease in a way that is safe, and we are making positive progress with the announcements that we are making" he told reporters on Wednesday.

Mr Merlino said the most important things Victorians can do is get tested, even if they have the mildest COVID-19 symptoms.

"Don't assume that a sore throat or a cough is just the symptoms of a cold. You have got to find out and make sure," he said.

It comes as Victoria officially recorded five new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, including two cases linked to a Southbank townhouse complex announced on Tuesday.

Two of the three other new cases are close contacts of people within the Kings Park Apartment Complex who previously tested positive for the virus.

It brings the total number of cases at the complex to eight, including an infant. A number of the positive cases have moved into hotel quarantine.

Some 163 residents at the complex will undergo 14 days of quarantine, as authorities believe the virus was transmitted in a common area.

The remaining new case is a nurse at Epping Private Hospital, where three COVID-positive Arcare Maidstone aged care residents were transferred about 10 days ago.

COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said the nurse had received at least her first dose of the vaccine.

"We are concerned about this case," he said, noting the woman may have been infectious during at least one of two shifts this month.

Nine staff members at Epping Private have been told to quarantine for a fortnight, while other staff have been tested and will need to return a negative result before they can return to work.

The nurse also worked at the Northern Hospital on June 11 and 12, and so far 22 staff at that hospital have been told to quarantine.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there still may be cases of COVID-19 going undetected in the community.

"We have to work on the basis that we may yet still have cases in metro Melbourne and potentially elsewhere who are infectious, who don't know that they're cases and are moving about," he said.

Professor Sutton urged people not to allow fatigue to set in.

"It's really tough. This is 16 months into a pandemic, there is no question that people are over this."

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the new set of restrictions made it "too hard" for many businesses to reopen.

"Where's the evidence for keeping these restrictions in place, where's the roadmap to get us our lives back?" he said.

About 55 active COVID-19 cases remain in the state, including those in hotel quarantine.

Some 17,538 Victorians were tested in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, while 14,870 were vaccinated at the state-run hubs.

Australian Associated Press