Victoria’s five-day coronavirus lockdown will end at 11.59pm on Wednesday – but some restrictions, including mandatory face masks and restricted social gatherings, will remain.
The announcement that Victorians will be freed from tough lockdown came as the state recorded no new locally-acquired coronavirus infections on Wednesday.
Victorians were locked down under brutal Stage Four restrictions on Friday as health officials sought to slow the spread of a Covid cluster stemming from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport.
The stay-at-home order, only allowing people to leave home for essential work, shopping, care and exercise, will now be repealed along with the 5km travel rule.
Face masks will still be mandatory indoor and outdoors if social distancing cannot be followed, and Victorians will only be allowed to have five guests in their houses.
Shops, bars, pubs and restaurants can also reopen on Thursday and 20 people can gather outside.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was able to lift the ‘short, sharp circuit breaker’ lockdown thanks to the low infection numbers – but some rules must stay.
Victoria’s five-day coronavirus lockdown will end at 11.59pm on Wednesday – but some restrictions will remain (pictured, a picnic in a Melbourne park pre-lockdown)
The five-day lockdown meant spectators were banned from watching the Australian Open (pictured on February 16) – leaving stands empty. New capacity limits will be confirmed in the coming hours
Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured on Wednesday) said he was able to lift the ‘short, sharp circuit breaker’ thanks to the hard work of Victorians in containing the virus
‘[The lockdown was] exactly what we said we needed, that’s exactly what we said would work,’ he said.
‘I am very proud of every single Victorian for the work they have done.’
Schools will reopen on Thursday after shutting down for three days, while visits to hospitals and care facilities will be limited to one household with a per day as restrictions ease.
Retail, hospitality and religious gatherings will be able to resume with the same density limits that were in place before the lockdown.
There are no limits on numbers for funerals and weddings but the gatherings must follow the venue’s density limits indoors and outdoors.
Sport and recreation will also be able to begin again with density quotas in place.
Mr Andrews was also grilled about whether spectators would be allowed to return to the Australian Open from Thursday.
The five-day lockdown meant crowds were prohibited from attending the matches.
Mr Andrews said the capacity at the Open would be reduced again and the number of attendees allowed at the tennis and other major large events would be confirmed in the coming hours.
‘It is not a simple process, we go through quite an exhaustive process to make sure that those events are viable and can happen but are safe,’ he said.
NEW RULES FOR VICTORIA FROM WEDNESDAY AT 11.59PM
Victoria’s five day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown will end at midnight on Wednesday, here are the new rules:
– Masks still mandatory indoors and outdoors if you can’t socially distance
– Only five people allowed round to homes until Friday February 26
– Maximum 20 people at outdoor gatherings
– 5km rule scrapped – meaning Victorians can travel all over the state
– No limits on funeral numbers and weddings can resume with capacity limits
– Schools can reopen
– Retail and hospitality – including pubs and restaurants – can also reopen, but with one person per four square metres
Health workers assist quarantining guests as they leave the Holiday Inn on February 16 (pictured) after a cluster there reached 19 people – putting the state into lockdown
Face masks will still be required in indoor and outdoor settings if social distancing cannot be followed. Pictured: People are seen exercising at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Wednesday
Almost 40,000 test results were received in the 24 hours to midnight on Tuesday and there are 25 active cases across the state.
Health authorities have also warned there are still ‘nine days to go’ as the virus will likely continue to circulate after leaking from hotel quarantine.
Senior government ministers met on Tuesday night to discuss the easing of restrictions, which were introduced following an outbreak of the UK strain at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn where returned travellers were being quarantined.
The outbreak at the Holiday Inn sits at 19 cases.
The starting point of the cluster can be traced back to a family of three who had returned from overseas and tested positive for Covid.
The entire state of Victoria was plunged into a snap five day lockdown on February 12 in response to an outbreak at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn which has since grown to 19 cases (crowds at the Australian Open were banned following the announcement)
Pictured: Cafes and retail shops are closed in Melbourne’s Bourke St as police patrol the area during the five-day lockdown
A returned traveller in the family was allegedly using a nebuliser to treat his chronic asthma and said he was given permission by health authorities to use the medical device.
It is believed the nebuliser allowed coronavirus-carrying particles to become airborne and infect a food and beverage worker, a security officer and a resident who has since left hotel quarantine.
A food and beverage worker from the Holiday Inn who tested negative on February 7, but tested positive three days later, is believed to be the source of another cluster close-by.
The worker’s partner and a family member also tested positive and all attended a function at Sydney Road in Coburg on February 6, which has resulted in more cases.
The Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn (pictured) Covid-19 cluster has grown to 19 cases
Victoria has recorded 20,640 cases and 820 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The state endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns last year after an outbreak in hotel quarantine sparked a horror second wave that killed more than 800 people, the vast majority of the national death toll.
Brisbane and Perth recently underwent similar snap lockdowns in response to cases of variant strains leaking from hotel quarantine.
In both instances the outbreak was quickly contained.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley (left) and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrive at the press conference on Wednesday, where the premier announced lockdown would end