MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is eyeing a return to Victoria’s pre-outbreak restrictions but cannot rule out using lockdowns as a Covid-busting “tool” in the future.
Acting Premier James Merlino announced Victoria would take “big steps forward” from 11.59 pm on June 24, with a raft of new measures confirmed for the next fortnight.
Under the changes, Melbourne and regional Victoria are moving to almost identical rules including changes that allow 15 visitors into homes.
Up to 50 people will be able to gather outdoors statewide, while the cap on funerals and weddings has been boosted to 300 guests.
With a bumper weekend of sports events on the calendar, Victorians can return to Melbourne stadiums with half-capacity crowds up to 25,000 people.
That has opened the door for some 15,000 spectators to attend June 26th’s A-League grand final at AAMI Park and 5000 fans to watch game three of the National Basketball League grand final series at John Cain Arena on the night of June 25.
Theaters can also open at 50 percent capacity, with up to 1000 people.
From July 1, subject to public health advice, theaters will move to full capacity and indoor and outdoor stadiums can increase to 85 percent.
The two-week rules block is designed to give Victorians confidence to plan for the upcoming school holidays.
With ongoing outbreaks almost cleared and no local cases reported in two days, Professor Sutton hopes the state will be ready to return to pre-lockdown settings at the end of the next fortnight.
“That’s clearly our aspiration,” he said.
Sutton acknowledged the state’s fourth lockdown had left people “angrier, more frustrated, and more fatigued” than previous iterations, though flagged they would remain a tool in health official’s arsenal for now.
“I hope that we’re in a situation where we’ve got such high vaccination coverage that we never have to consider a lockdown,” he said.
“But if that is what’s required, based on what we’re confronted with, I wouldn’t want to set it aside as never being available to us as a tool.” Merlino has repeatedly attacked the federal government for its “shambolic” vaccine rollout, with the state government reducing first-dose Pfizer shots oversupply concerns.
On June 23, federal Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck tabled a document outlining the Commonwealth’s vaccine allocation targets to Victoria for the rest of the year.
It shows Pfizer doses are expected to rise from 85,540-100,000 over the July to August period to 140,000-200,000 across October and December.
More than 17,200 Victorians received a vaccine dose at state-run hubs in the 24 hours to June 23.
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Ritaban Misra. Map by Urvashi Makwana)
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