Lockdown restrictions in regional Victoria will be lifted from Thursday as the state recorded zero COVID-19 deaths and only 42 additional cases of the virus.
The state’s 14-day new case average for Melbourne dropped to 52.9 and 3.6 for regional Victoria.
It is was the first time since July 13 that the state has recorded no deaths.
Premier Daniel Andrews said there are still 11 Victorians in intensive care, seven of whom are on ventilators.
Outdoor gathering limits in regional parts of the state will increase to 10 people from midnight on Thursday morning – as will weddings and outdoor religious gatherings.
Funerals will be allowed 20 mourners and regional Victorians can welcome five visitors from another nominated household.
‘This is a great day for regional Victoria,’ Mr Andrews said on Tuesday. ‘This will be welcomed I’m sure, and there’s no greater evidence to the people of Melbourne that these strategies – getting numbers low – is possible, and it is essential.’
Locals wearing facemasks walk along the South Melbourne Beach on Monday. Lockdown restrictions in regional Victoria will be lifted from tomorrow
He emphasised though residents of metropolitan Melbourne – the borders of which he will confirm in detail on Wednesday – should not be travelling to regional Victoria unless they have an essential reason.
The move comes as Mr Andrews was heavily criticised for a $290million plan to revive the state’s crippled entertainment sector.
The under-fire premier unveiled a funding package on Monday to help the state’s sole traders and entertainment industry survive when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Mr Andrews said the plan would turn the city into an al fresco dining hub – but the head of Melbourne’s largest restaurant group has already labelled the proposal unworkable.
WHAT REGIONAL VICTORIANS WILL BE ALLOWED TO DO UNDER EASED LOCKDOWN RULES
Outdoor gathering limits will increase to 10 people. That number does not include infants under the age of 12 months.
Limits for outdoor religious gatherings and weddings will increase to 10 people, while funeral limits will rise to 20 mourners.
Five visitors are allowed in a home from a nominated household.
Schools will return to normal operation over the first two weeks of Term 4.
Outdoor auctions will be allowed to have a maximum of 10 people in attendance.
Children can return to community sport and adults can take part in non-contact sport.
Regional Victorians can travel and holiday within regional parts of the state – with tourist accommodation in those areas also opening up
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday was ‘a great day for regional Victoria’ as he eased gathering limits outside of metropolitan Melbourne
‘The government thinks this is going to be some sort of outdoor Disneyland for dining, but it’s not going to work,’ Luca Restaurants chief executive Chris Lucas told the Herald Sun.
‘The majority of the city’s restaurants cannot work outdoors. Outdoor dining really only suits cafes, not to mention Melbourne’s problematic weather.’
Restaurant and Catering Industry Association chief Wes Lambert said though the package would help lift the city’s restaurants out of lockdown.
‘This is a generous and comprehensive package that matches calls from industry organisations like R&CA to help businesses operate outdoors,’ he said.
Mr Andrews compared the revival plan – which will see $100million go towards a Melbourne City Recovery fund to inject life back into the city – to New York’s Open Restaurants initiative.
The program in the US’ largest city involved footpaths, laneways and streets being temporarily transformed into dining areas.
Masked walkers on South Melbourne Beach on Monday as the world’s heaviest coronavirus restrictions in the city were eased overnight to allow residents two hours exercise time
But Mr Lucas said as many as 60 per cent of New York’s businesses could still not be saved by the program.
Premier Daniel Andrews has meanwhile flagged regional Victoria may move to the ‘third step’ of its roadmap plan as early as this week.
That step, allowing people to leave their homes without restrictions and hospitality businesses to reopen, is triggered if its 14-day average remains below five and no ‘mystery’ cases are recorded.
Computer-generated imagery showed the vision for Victoria’s plan to rejuvenate its hospitality sector after the city’s Stage Four lockdown – but the plan has come under fire from business owners
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews leaves after addressing a press conference on Monday. Stage Four lockdown restrictions have been eased slightly as of this week, with the curfew eased to 9pm to 5am
A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks past a closed pub in Melbourne on Thursday. Mr Premier Daniel Andrews announced $100million will go towards a Melbourne City Recovery fund to inject life back into the city
‘There won’t be a lot of notice,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Monday.
‘That is preferable in making people wait for another week or so.
‘Hopefully we can have very good news for regional Victoria tomorrow.’
Under the state government’s plan, Melbourne’s bars, cafes and restaurants can open for outdoor dining from October 26.
Melbourne will move to its next step of reopening on September 28 if the 14-day average falls to 30-50.
The city took its first tentative steps out of lockdown on Monday, with those living alone or single parents allowed to have one visitor, outdoor exercise extended to two hours and the curfew’s start time extended an hour to 9pm.