Regional Victoria could see 'substantial' easing of lockdown as soon as next week as the premier announced only a few changes to the current lockdown.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that playgrounds reopening, in-home childcare rules and prioritising Year 12 student vaccinations are among what he described as the 'modest changes' that will take place in Victoria from midnight on Thursday.
Regional schools will have to wait until the regional announcement on easing next week to see if they can salvage something of term three.
The news was slightly better for regional Victoria with the exception of Shepparton, which will be kept isolated, but the details on what rules would change were scant.
"We think we will be able to end the lockdown in the rest of regional Victoria next week," he said.
"Exactly when, we will confirm as soon as we can.
"It will not be a full opening up, there will not be hundreds of people at the pub, or the restaurant or the cafe, but there will be activity that is possible, and safe, and that will be in excess of what's happening in Melbourne because cases are very different, the epidemiology of regional Victoria is very different."
The five rules for leaving home will still apply for all Victorians and mask wearing regulations remain unchanged.
The 9pm to 5am curfew also remains in place for metropolitan Melbourne.
From Friday playgrounds will be for children under 12 with only one parent or carer, and adults should not remove their masks to eat or drink. Playgrounds will also have QR codes for checking in.
In-home care - like babysitters - will also be expanded to school aged children but only if both parents are authorised workers.
The modest easing of restrictions come as Victoria recorded 120 new local cases of coronavirus on Wednesday.
100 of those were infectious in the community, marking a "dramatic shift" in the Victorian outbreak.
"The depth of the seeding of this outbreak has been clear and the advice has fundamentally changed," Mr Andrews said.
"We will not see these cases go down, they are going to go up. The question is by how many and how fast.
"We can't ease restrictions in any profound way."
Victoria has abandoned it's goal to drive down cases to zero.
"It's now clear to us that we are not going to drive these numbers down they're instead going to increase. Now it's up to us to make sure that they don't increase too fast."
From September 23 it is expected a range of changes can take place for Melbourne, including expanding the five kilometre limit to 10 kilometres and an additional hour of exercise permitted.
Regional students could be back in the classroom as early as next week, the Premier said.
Year 12 COVID-19 vaccination blitz
From September 7 to 17 senior students will get priority access to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine ahead of final exams.
The "year 12 vaccination blitz" will see year 12 students will be given priority booking access at state-run clinics, as well as teachers and examiners.
Students and teachers will need to book an appointment, as walk ups are not available as part of the blitz.
Students and teachers will be able to book one of these priority appointments from Monday September 6.
The Department of Health and the Department of Education will work directly with schools, and students and parents will receive the advice on how to arrange a booking through their schools.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said none of the year 12-aged students who have been vaccinated have ended up in hospital.
Two-thirds of Victoria's 900 active cases are under the age of 40, with 187 under the age of nine.
"Astra Zeneca is a safe and effective vaccine - and if that's what's available, then that's what you should get.
"Despite all of these extraordinary efforts between contact tracing and between millions of Victorians following the rules, we are still seeing a slow and steady increase (in new COVID-19 infections).
"We have to move as fast as we can to get the highest possible vaccination coverage, which will change how transmission occurs."
If Victoria wasn't in lockdown for the last four weeks there would have been 1700 new COVID-19 cases today and 3000 by the end of the week, Professor Sutton said.
The Premier predicts 80 per cent of the Victorian population aged over 16 will have had at lease a single dose by October 9.
All Victorians are encouraged where possible to book their vaccination appointment by visiting portal.cvms.vic.gov.au or by phoning the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
Victoria recorded 120 new coronavirus cases, with 64 infections linked to known COVID-19 outbreaks. Only 20 were in isolation for their infectious period.
There are now 900 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 122 mystery cases.
The cases were uncovered from 56,501 tests yesterday.
There are 58 Victorians in hospital, with 21 in intensive care and 14 in ventilators.
On Tuesday 33,455 vaccines doses were administered.
Victoria is halfway to its target of one million vaccines within a five week period, reaching 522,051 jabs.
Victoria's 120 new cases mark the highest number of new cases recorded across the state in more than a year - there were 149 new cases recorded on August 26 2020 during the state's deadly second wave - and comes a day after Victoria recorded two COVID-19 deaths, the first in the state this year.
Reported yesterday: 120 new local cases and no cases acquired overseas.— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) August 31, 2021
- 33,455 vaccines doses were administered
- 56,501 test results were received
- Sadly, 2 people with COVID-19 have died
More later: https://t.co/lIUrl1hf3W#COVID19Vic#COVID19VicData [1/2] pic.twitter.com/UivzH9pHw9
Late on Tuesday the health department revealed the women, aged in their 40s and 60s, died at home after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Once Victoria reaches the 80 per cent vaccine target set by national cabinet, Mr Andrews said the national plan would replace the roadmap.
Meanwhile, the AFL grand final has officially been relocated from Melbourne for a second straight year and will be played in Perth on September 25.
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