Victoria has recorded 779 new local Covid-19 cases and two deaths as the state’s coronavirus outbreak continues to spiral out of control.
It comes as leaked planning documents from the Department of Education revealed the tough rules that could be imposed on school children on their return to classrooms.
Premier Dan Andrews announced Victoria would celebrate its first vaccination milestone on Tuesday, when the state hit its 80 per cent single-dose target.
Melburnians will be able to enjoy ‘contactless’ sports like golf, tennis and boating from Wednesday, as several long-standing restrictions are finally relaxed.
Victoria recorded 779 new cases of Covid-19 and two deaths on Sunday (pictured, protesters marching at the ‘Millions March for Freedom’ rally on St Kilda Beach on Saturday)
Face masks and restrictions on household numbers are predicted to stay in Victoria even at an 80 per cent full vaccination rate (pictured, two women walking in St Kilda in Melbourne)
‘That is a fantastic achievement, and as we announced some time ago, that makes some things possible,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘I am not overselling this, they are modest things. Not Freedom Day, not the end of the lockdown. That is getting closer every day though.’
In regional Victoria, the outdoor venue cap will increase from 20 to 30 with masks allowed to be removed if the service requires it in hair and beauty salons, so facials and beard trimmings can recommence.
In metropolitan Melbourne residents will be able to enjoy ‘contactless’ sports in outdoor facilities with the 10km rule to be extended to 15km. The low-risk sports permitted include golf, boating and tennis.
The gathering size outdoors has been increased to five fully vaccinated adults from two households.
Personal training for a group of five people plus a trainer is permitted as long as all parties are fully vaccinated.
Mr Andrews announced Victoria would hit its first vaccination target on Tuesday with 80 per cent of residents to be single-dosed (pictured, a healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine in Melbourne)
‘That is a fantastic achievement, and as we announced some time ago, that makes some things possible,’ Mr Andrews (pictured) said in relation to the 80 per cent single-dose target
Parents will be permitted to remove their masks for eating and drinking purposes while supervising their children in playgrounds.
The next round of easing restrictions will focus on the return of Victorian students to onsite learning, a date earmarked for October 6.
Leaked planning documents from the Department of Education obtained by the Herald Sun have revealed the tough rules school children can expect next month.
One of the considerations under the frameworks – which are not yet finalised or confirmed – is scrapping excursions, camps, assemblies and performances.
Indoor sporting classes and outdoor contact sports would also be off the cards for students, who will be advised not to gather in large groups on school grounds.
The plans state parents would not be permitted to mingle outside school gates.
The leaked documents indicate the harsh measures will continue for a considerable portion of next year, with a vaccination mandate on students also to be enforced.
All Victorian students aged over 12 will be required to have one dose of a vaccine ‘to attend school by 2022’ while those in Year 11 and 12 will need two.
There have also been discussions around primary aged children being vaccinated, if the Therapeutics Goods Administration gives the green light.
Sources from inside the Department of Education told the Herald Sun that a tracking system had been suggested to give information on a student’s vaccination status.
However, the state government has reiterated that mandatory vaccinations for school children are still not being considered.
Teachers, administration staff, support workers and cleaners were informed last week they would need to be vaccinated to return to school in Term Four.
Leaked planning documents from the Department of Education have revealed the tough rules that will be imposed on school children as they return to classrooms (pictured, Bentleigh Secondary College students in Melbourne in July)
Staff must have had at least one jab by October 18, or be booked in the following week, and will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 29.
The same mandate would apply to childcares, with the leaked documents revealing unvaccinated parents could be barred from childcare from January.
The plans did not directly state what the department’s response would be to a potential Covid-19 outbreak in a school environment.
Year 12 students are set to return to classrooms from October 6, followed by kindergarten and Year One from October 18.
All students will return to campus part-time from November 5.
Of Victoria’s eligible school children, 31 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds have received one dose of a Covid vaccine, while 61 per cent of those aged 16 and 17 have got their first jab.
Covid-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said two men who attended the at-times violent protests in Melbourne last week, have since tested positive for Covid-19.
One man from Geelong, aged in his 30s, tested positive for the virus a few days ago after attending the protest during his infectious period.
Another protest attendee is currently being cared for in St Vincent’s Hospital.
Mr Weimar said no additional cases had been linked to the two protestors so far, with health authorities now scrambling to trace their movements.
‘We now have at least two individuals that we’re aware of, both of whom tested positive – one in regional Victoria, one in the city, both of whom were at the protests,’ the commander said.
‘That will be a risk to people around them. I suspect there wasn’t a QR code for the demonstration.’
Around 47 per cent of Victorians have had two doses of a Covid vaccine compared to NSW, where 57.8 per cent of over-16s are fully vaccinated.
From Tuesday, Victorians can enjoy ‘contactless’ sports like boating, tennis and golf (pictured, people exercising in Melbourne last week)
The city of Greater Geelong will be released from lockdown at 11:59pm on Sunday night and will enjoy the same freedoms as residents in the Surf Coast LGA.
There were six Covid cases reported in Geelong yesterday and one case in Surf Coast however health officials are confident the new infections can be managed.
Health officials remain concerned for the Mitchell Shire LGA which is currently reporting twice the number of active cases as Geelong.
The two Victorians that died with Covid-19 were a man in his 80s from Moreland and a man in his 70s from Hume, both of whom were not vaccinated.
Deputy chief health officer Deborah Friedman said both had been eligible for a jab.
‘If your elderly parents are yet to get the vaccine, please recognise that they are especially vulnerable — please encourage them because two doses of the safe, effective and free vaccine can save their life,’ she said.
There are 325 people currently hospitalised with Covid-19 across the state, with 73 of those in ICU and 54 are on a ventilator.
Mr Weimar said 80 per cent of those hospitalised with Covid were unvaccinated, 15 had received one dose and five per cent were fully vaccinated.
There was two Covid-related deaths on Sunday, the Victorian health department has confirmed with four people aged in their 20s currently battling the virus in ICU.
There were 34,280 vaccine doses administered across the state on Saturday with the new cases of the virus detected from 46,322 Covid tests.
The premier revealed there is currently four people aged in his 20s are in ICU with Covid-19 and are all using a ventilator to breathe (pictured, a woman is tested for Covid)
A plan for a series of vaccinated economy trials in regional Victoria has been scheduled to begin on October 11, with six LGAs chosen to take part.
Fully vaccinated residents in Buloke, Pyrenees, Bass Coast, Greater Bendigo, East Gippsland and Warrnambool can enjoy a drink in the pub in just over a fortnight.
The trial will test higher patron numbers and crowds in hospitality venues to assess what kinds of support business owners and staff will need to reopen.
Unvaccinated Victorians have been encouraged to get the jab with 600,000 doses a week due to be available at primary care clinics from October.
Mr Andrews said the state government had significant supply of both Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines and urged residents to come forward to get jabbed.
Vaccination hubs are set to be stocked with 265,000 doses a week by the end of October, with health officials now reviewing if there are enough Pfizer doses to cut the spacing between jabs from six to three weeks.
The move would help the state reach the eagerly-anticipated 80 per cent double dose rate, a date earmarked for November 5.
About 47 per cent of Victorians are fully vaccinated, according to the state government (pictured, a woman getting vaccinated at a pop-up clinic)
Victoria narrowly missed out on having 80 per cent of the eligible population single-dosed by AFL Grand Final Day on Sunday (pictured, a woman at a vaccination centre in Melbourne)
It comes as Victorians are warned mask mandates and limits on home gatherings to be a part of daily life even after 80 per cent of the population are fully vaccinated, a health expert has warned.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said on Saturday it would be a ‘challenge’ to keep case numbers down when the 80 per cent double dose target was met.
Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett has warned strict restrictions may be needed even at 80 per cent to prevent surging rates of transmission.
‘The key is getting case numbers down before we ease restrictions and that’s going to take some work,’ she told the The Age.
‘We know the virus will be in the community, the question is how much we can live with it?’
She said mask mandates indoors may still be enforced even at that threshold, while caps on gatherings in the home could be enforced and relaxed intermittently to stem outbreaks.
Victorian health minister Martin Foley said Victoria’s roadmap to freedom isn’t a ‘set and forget’ plan
Mr Foley hinted his government may take that approach, noting that Victoria’s roadmap to freedom isn’t a ‘set and forget’ plan.
‘It [the roadmap] was always made on the basis we would continue to review where cases were at,’ he said.
According the the roadmap, when the 80 per cent single dose milestone is reached Melburnians who are fully vaccinated can gather in groups of up to five and the city’s travel limit will be expanded from 10km to 15km.
But Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the initial roadmap target was ‘ambitious’ and he would consider a day-by-day ‘countdown’ for future 70 and 80 per cent double dose goals based on updated data.
‘We would expect that, certainly by mid to late next week, we’ll hit that [single dose target],’ Mr Foley said on Friday.
Vaccination numbers were initially tipped to be at 80 per cent in Victoria by September 26 – but the state has fallen short of that projected target (pictured, testing in Ballarat, in regional Victoria this week)
‘These projections bounce around based on all sorts of measures. Let’s all redouble our efforts over this weekend.’
There are more than 600 current exposure sites across Victoria, including in regional towns Wodonga, Warrnambool, Bendigo and Shepparton.
Victoria’s Covid-19 testing chief, said while contact tracers in regional Victoria are monitoring rings of containment, contact tracers in city areas are focused on ‘the highest-risk settings.’
‘We are getting to the heart of the matter more quickly, focusing on those high-risk primary close contacts and focusing on those high-risk exposure sites,’ he said.
Mr Weimar said several hundred of the 847 cases recorded on Saturday had come from ‘social interactions between households’, which are illegal during lockdown.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the initial roadmap target was ‘ambitious’ and he would consider a day-by-day ‘countdown’ for future 70 and 80 per cent double dose goals based on updated data