Victoria lockdown eased as COVID-19 fades

Daniel Andrews is ending Victoria's COVID curfew with the state 'close to defeating this thing'.
Daniel Andrews is ending Victoria's COVID curfew with the state 'close to defeating this thing'.

A night curfew will be lifted in Victoria and thousands of people will return to work as the state rolls back COVID-19 restrictions as the virus recedes.

The changes were announced on Sunday after the two-week rolling case average for new cases in Melbourne fell to 22.1, well under the aim of 30-50. The average is just 0.6 for regional Victoria.

Premier Daniel Andrews says the 9pm to 5am curfew will be lifted from 5am on Monday. The night curfew has been in place for eight weeks since August 2.

He said lifting the curfew did not mean people could hold private indoor or outdoor gatherings, with those caught doing so liable for a new $5000 fine.

"No one has the right to put everything that Victorians have done at risk by going and potentially spreading the virus, one family to another," Mr Andrews said.

He stressed that informal home visits were too risky with a lack of social-distancing easily spreading the virus.

"Let's not let that happen. We are so close. We're so close to defeating this thing," he said.

From 11:59pm on Sunday about 127,000 workers will be allowed to return to work, close to 30,000 more than originally expected.

Year 12 students will return to school for assessments on October 3 with primary school students to return on October 12, but years 8 to 10 won't go back to class yet.

A single household or up to five people from two households will be able to gather outdoors in public, while the limit on one person per household going shopping once a day will also be lifted.

Hospital patients will be allowed one visitor per day for a maximum of two hours, while patients under the age of 18 will be allowed unlimited visits from two parents or carers.

People will still only be able to exercise for two hours per day, but they will be able to do so within 5km of their workplaces as well as their homes.

Outdoor weddings with a limit of five people, including the marrying couple and two witnesses will be permitted as well.

The premier foreshadowed that full freedom of movement, when Victorians can leave home without needing any reason, could come on October 19 ahead of AFL grand final weekend.

But he urged Victorians not to let their guard down.

"It will come back with fury. It will run wild if we just let this go, if we pretend it is over when it isn't," Mr Andrews said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the changes while heaping fresh pressure on Victoria to safely ease more restrictions quicker.

The federal government is urging a review of case number triggers for Melbourne's third and final roadmap steps, while noting NSW had been "fundamentally open" with similar case numbers courtesy of its contact tracing system.

"We remain deeply concerned about the mental health impacts of a prolonged lockdown on Melbourne residents," the joint statement said.

There were 399 active cases in the state on Sunday, the first time there have been under 400 since June 30.

Victoria on Sunday reported just 16 new cases and two deaths, taking the state's death toll to 784 and the national figure to 872.

The lockdown easing comes after the resignation of Jenny Mikakos as health minister on Saturday after the premier told the hotel quarantine inquiry her department was ultimately responsible for running the botched quarantine system.

Ms Mikakos will also resign from parliament, with Martin Foley sworn in as her replacement in the health portfolio.

Mr Andrews paid tribute to his former minister and said the Labor party would work to settle on her parliamentary replacement.

Australian Associated Press