Vic has two virus deaths, two new cases

Benita Kolovos
·3-min read

Victoria has recorded two new coronavirus cases as some 180,000 people returned to work in Melbourne's hospitality and retail industries for the first time in months.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed Wednesday's new cases were close contacts of people who had already been diagnosed with COVID-19 and were self-isolating at home when they tested positive.

They are linked to a cluster in Melbourne's northern suburbs, which now totals 41 people across 12 households.

Two aged care residents - a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s - who died some weeks ago from the virus were also added to the state's toll on Wednesday.

They are the first COVID-19 deaths reported in Australian since October 19 and bring the state's toll from the virus to 819 and the national figure to 907.

Mr Andrews said more than 16,000 retail stores, 5800 cafes and restaurants and 1000 beauty salons reopened their doors on Wednesday, following 112 days of the nation's toughest lockdown.

"That is an achievement that every single Victorian should be proud of," he said.

Mr Andrews said it was critical Victorians continued to get tested for the virus as the state opened up.

There were 24,673 tests conducted on Tuesday, the highest daily figure for Victoria since September 4.

"I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but we want to find the cases that are there so we can wrap support around you and make sure you don't unknowingly give it to anybody," Mr Andrews said.

Victoria's Commander of Testing Jeroen Weimar said 98 per cent of tests were now being turned around in 24 hours.

"You won't be waiting for days on end," Mr Weimar said.

Among the first restaurants to welcome back diners on Wednesday was Angus & Bon in Prahran, which reopened at the stroke of midnight.

The New York-style steakhouse and other metropolitan hospitality venues can host up to 50 people outdoors and 20 indoors, separated into two groups of 10.

"Inside is 20 times more dangerous than outside, and it is really important that we have those spaces separated," Mr Andrews said.

He said while businesses currently had to track customer attendance themselves, the state government was working on a QR code check-in system.

"We will have more to say about that soon. In the meantime, I'm grateful to all of the many operators who are taking this very seriously and will keep meticulous records," Mr Andrews said.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said he had heard from hospitality businesses that would not reopen until the limits on the number of patrons inside a venue increased.

"The government needs to consult," he said.

There are 80 active cases of coronavirus remaining in Victoria, all in Melbourne.

The city's 14-day case average dropped from 2.8 to 2.7 and its mystery cases in the fortnight to October 25 halved to three.

For the first time since May 7, regional Victoria has no cases.

New rules for home visits were also introduced on Wednesday.

Two adults from one household can now visit another home accompanied by any dependents. The visits are restricted to within the 25km travel limit and to one per day.

Restrictions on indoor gatherings will likely remain in place until Christmas, when multiple groups are expected to be given the green light to celebrate together at home.

Some 25,000 people will be able to attend the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but there will be no crowd at next Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.