Vic set for early easing as vax rates soar

·3-min read

Victoria is ahead of schedule to get 70 per cent of its residents a first COVID-19 vaccination, paving the way for Melbourne's planned easing of restrictions to be brought forward.

As the state recorded 183 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews revealed 60 per cent of Victorians had received a first dose.

Minor rules easing will be triggered when Victoria reaches 70 per cent first dose coverage, including the expansion of the 5km travel radius to 10km, more exercise time as well as the reopening of outdoor gym equipment and skate parks.

The state was initially forecast to hit the mark on September 23, but is five days ahead of schedule.

"Every (vaccine) appointment that gets made, every shot in the arm between now and then will bring that date forward," Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

"Don't wait for next month, don't wait until some other time, act on that now."

A weekend record 29,915 doses were administered at Victorian-run hubs on Saturday, taking the state closer to its goal of one million jabs in five weeks.

Of the 183 new cases reported on Sunday, 101 have been linked to known outbreaks and 91 per cent are aged under 50.

One of the new cases is a Wodonga-based truck driver who visited several interstate exposure sites and has been isolating at home.

The emergence of that case and another six in Shepparton doesn't appear to have spooked the premier, who reiterated he expects to announce within days parts of regional Victoria will be able to ease lockdown restrictions.

"The number of cases in regional Victoria are very low, except for Shepparton," Mr Andrews said.

"Our hope would be to have the lockdown off in regional Victoria as soon as possible. That won't be a return to everyone's-open-and-maximum-capacity, there will be less than that.

"But I'm sure both regional Victorians will have greater freedom and regional Victorian businesses will have much greater takings than they do now."

Late last week, the premier flagged a vaccine passport pilot program would soon be trialled in regional Victorian venues such as pubs and restaurants and for major sports events.

The Moonee Valley Racing Club is pushing to host thousands of fully vaccinated spectators as part of a "no jab, no entry" policy for next month's Cox Plate.

"I am certain that there will be a whole range of events once we get to 70 and 80 per cent double dose thresholds ... that will be open for vaccinated people only," Mr Andrews said.

There are 89 patients in Victorian hospitals, with 24 in intensive care and 13 of on ventilators. Only one of those in hospital is fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, a $27 million food and financial relief package for Victoria's most vulnerable people was also announced on Sunday.

"The package is very much about putting our arms around those vulnerable people," Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Luke Donnellan said.

There will be $6 million to help people under financial stress access healthy food, while a further $3.7 million will be allocated to "partners" including the Red Cross to help support thousands of families subject to stay-at-home orders.

Almost $6 million will fund the extension of the Extreme Hardship Support Program to the end of 2021, plus $7.2 million to provide tailored assistance - including vaccination promotion - for culturally diverse communities.

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