Victoria records no new local COVID cases as restrictions set to ease

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Victoria has recorded no new local coronavirus cases for an eighth consecutive day as the state prepares to ease coronavirus restrictions allowing office workers to go mask-free at their desks and crowds of up to 40,000 at weekend footy matches.

The state also recorded no new COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine in the 24 hours to midnight.

There were 27,420 test results processed in the past 24 hours, and 15,875 people rolled up their sleeves for a COVID jab.

Coronavirus restrictions will be eased in Melbourne at 11.59pm on Thursday, bringing the city into line with rules applying to regional Victoria.

Under the new rules, mask-wearing will no longer be mandated in schools for students and staff or at workplaces where there is no public interaction, such as offices and factories.

They will still be required in indoor, public-facing settings and must be carried at all times.

Sports and entertainment venues will be allowed to welcome back crowds of up to 75 per cent capacity; up to 40,000 people in outdoor stadiums, and up to 2000 people in some theatres.

Density limits at hospitality venues, gyms, community facilities, creative studios and places of worship are being increased to one person per two square metres, rather than one per four square metres.

The new density limits also apply to real estate auctions and inspections, hairdressers, and beauty salons.

Melburnians will be able to let their hair down with up to 50 people allowed on dance floors, and masks will not be necessary at weddings where certain COVID-safe measures are in place.

Associate Professor Deb Friedman, who was standing in for Professor Brett Sutton as the state’s Chief Health Officer on Wednesday, explained the necessary measures.

“We’re expecting that when they say ‘I do’, that they won’t have masks on, I think that goes without saying,” she said.

“In a [wedding] setting where people have all checked in for the event and we’re able to easily contact trace, and where people are going to be consuming food and beverages, we’d expect that common sense would prevail and masks wouldn’t be worn in that type of setting.”

Guests lists will remain capped at 300 people for weddings. Funerals can have up to 300 mourners, as well as those helping to run the ceremony.

Some other restrictions will also remain the same: public gatherings will be allowed with up to 50 people, up to five people a day can visit loved ones in care facilities and Victorians can welcome up to 15 visitors a day to their homes a day.

Lord mayor Sally Capp, the state opposition and business groups have called on the Victorian government to reintroduce a policy that forces public service employees to work in the office for at least three days a week, in an attempt to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD.

They argue bringing the best part of 48,000 government employees back into the workplace should be the next step after the removal of mandatory mask-wearing.

The state government implemented a minimum three-day office attendance rule in March – before the last lockdown – in a move Government Services Minister Danny Pearson said would directly help local businesses in the CBD plus suburban and regional areas.

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