Despite a persistent Covid-19 outbreak, Melbourne will allow its five million inhabitants to go more than 25 kilometres from home and stop required mask wear outside on Friday.
The city exited a two-week hard lockdown late last week, its fourth since the pandemic began, after an outbreak that has seen about 100 cases since 24 May.
“Victoria is at its best when we are all together… the state will come back together from tomorrow night”, Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters on Wednesday.
Although cases linked to a fresh cluster in a residential townhouse complex rose slightly on Wednesday, Melbourne will gradually ease restrictions.
The size of public meetings will be increased to 20 persons, and the prohibition on home meetings will be abolished. Gyms are permitted to open around Melbourne, but must adhere to stringent distance regulations, and salon services are permitted to operate without the use of masks during treatment.
On Wednesday, Victoria reported three additional local cases, all of which were related to the townhouse cluster, bringing the total number of illnesses there to eight. Two cases disclosed on Tuesday that were recorded after the midnight cut-off period were also included in Wednesday’s statistics.
Officials said the new cases offered modest risks of community spread because they were all related to the previous epidemic, but they advised individuals to closely adhere to the social separation regulations.
“It isn’t over yet by no means … please don’t go back to behaviours that would suggest that there’s absolutely no risk,” Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said during a televised media conference.
Swift contact tracing, snap lockdowns and strict social distancing measures has helped Australia successfully combat prior outbreaks and keep its Covid-19 numbers relatively low, with just under 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.
Daily cases have remained in single digits for the last nine days in Victoria while other states and territories have effectively eliminated the virus.