Victorians holed up in their sixth lockdown are four days away from their first taste of freedom in months.
The state recorded 1,838 new Covid-19 cases and seven more deaths on Sunday as vaccination rates surge towards the 70 per cent double-dose milestone.
Surging vaccination rates have prompted Premier Daniel Andrews to fast-track freedoms in the state’s roadmap out of lockdown and tweak previously announced eased restrictions.
Melbourne will be lifted from lockdown at 11.59pm Thursday, the day Victoria is expected to reach the 70 per cent double-dose target.
The dreaded travel limit will be abolished, hospitality outlets can reopen for dining while the staggered return to the classroom begins this Friday.
Residents can have up to 10 fully vaccinated visitors at their homes while outdoor gathering limits will increase from 10 to 15 for the fully vaccinated.
Melburnians are four days away from being lifted from lockdown (pictured woman kicking a ball around at Carlton’s Princes Park)
The 15km travel limit is expected to be scrapped as part of the eased restrictions (pictured a surfer at Williamstown Beach on Saturday)
‘These are things we can bring forward because the Victorian community has done so well in getting vaccinated so fast and in such great numbers,’ Mr Andrews said on Sunday.
‘I could not be more proud of our community for coming forward and making these decisions to protect themselves, to protect the people they love, and to protect all of us against this global pandemic.’
‘To allow us to change the rules to open up, to normalise this, to get our friends back, to be focused on living our lives as close to normal as possible.’
Travelling to regional areas remains off limits for Melburnians.
Hospitality venues will be reopen for up to 20 fully vaccinated customers indoors.
The amendments to Victoria’s road map were announced a week after millions of fully vaccinated NSW residents enjoyed their taste of freedom in 106 days, where the 80 per cent double dose rate was hit on Saturday.
Mr Andrews said roadmap amendments were based on latest Burnet Institute modelling, which is predicting much lower hospitalisation than expected.
Around 73,501 Victorians came forward for testing on Saturday as jabs administrated surge towards the five million mark.
Around 88.05 per cent of Victoria’s over-16 population have had one vaccine dose while 65.02 per cent have had both doses.
‘Today is the day to congratulate and thank every single one of those five million Victorians who have at least got one dose. Of course there is more to do,’ Mr Andrews said
‘We’ve got to get to that 70 per cent double dose threshold, we’ve got to push beyond that and get to 80 per cent pleasingly.’
The seven deaths takes the toll from the current COVID-19 outbreak to 145 and follows the death of a 15-year-old girl with underlying conditions announced on Saturday.
The state’s tally of active cases has climbed to 23,376.
The Victorians crisis cabinet met on Saturday night to finetune eased restrictions.
Around 100,000 Victorians who have had their first jab will get a phone call this week to fast-track their second dose (pictured a pop up vaccination clinic in Melbourne on Saturday)
Both Mr Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton have previously said they were open to taking the first step out of lockdown early, in line with reaching vaccination coverage goals.
Regional travel for Melburnians will banned until the state hits the 80 per cent double-vaccination threshold.
‘It’s something we have been looking at – visitors at the home at 70 [per cent],’ a Labor insider said.
Government officials in Victoria are meanwhile increasing efforts to get 80 per cent of the state to be fully vaccinated by the end of October.
To do so, health staff are contacting 100,000 Victorians to bring forward their second dose of the vaccine.
Freedoms at 70 per cent for fully vaccinated Victorians so far include non-essential retail opening with density limits wile the limit on outdoor social gatherings rising to 10 fully-vaccinated people.
Pubs, clubs and entertainment venues will reopen with density limits as well as intrastate travel with the exception of metropolitan Melbourne.
Caps on funerals, weddings and religious ceremonies will also be increased.
Victorian health officials are ringing those with second dose bookings asking them to bring their appointments forward to October 25 to help reach these targets sooner
The state government has approved crowds at some large-scale events including Remembrance Day, with health officials confirming on Saturday night the state would be likely to hit 70 and 80 per cent targets within a week of each other if appointments for the second doses are brought forward.
‘With regular supplies of Pfizer and Moderna now available, every eligible Victorian now has the opportunity to bring forward their Covid-19 vaccination and get protected sooner,’ a department statement said.
‘Up to 100,000 Victorians can expect to get a call from the Department of Health in coming days inviting them to bring forward their second doses of Pfizer.’
Victorians are set to see each other sooner than expected due to a push for restrictions to end by the end of the month
Freedoms at 70 per cent fully vaccinated targets include pubs, clubs and entertainment venues opening with density limits
The coronavirus hotline is now ringing those with second dose bookings, asking them to move up their jabs to October 25 or earlier due to a serge in Pfizer and Moderna as one million doses arrive in Victoria next week.
This campaign is set to save at least two days of lockdown and suggests Victoria will be able to reopen by October 31 according to analyst Anthony Macali of Covidlive.com.au.
Mr Macali said he was optimistic Victoria would achieve its vaccine targets before the proposed dates.
‘There’s a small chance, a very best-case scenario that we get to 80 per cent by the 30th of October, but I’m calling the 31st of October,’ he said to The Herald Sun.
According to the department, Victoria needs 269,341 second doses to reach the 70 per cent target as the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia is now ahead of the EU and US for first dose numbers.
According to the Department of Health, Victoria needs 269,341 second doses to reach the 70 per cent target and be able to experience these freedoms