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Regional relief

REGIONAL Victorians are hopeful a number of COVID-19 restrictions will be diminished from midnight Thursday, as the state’s Circuit Breaker Lockdown looks to continue in metro Melbourne.

With the number of cases still rising in Melbourne and concerns about the apparently incidental nature of contact causing transmission, most restrictions will remain in the city but for those in other parts of Victoria the relaxations would go significantly further.

Acting premier, James Merlino said the situation required ongoing vigilance and the government was closely monitoring the numbers.

“We now have 60 local cases and more than 350 exposure sites,” he said on Wednesday.

One in 10 positive cases had caught the virus from a stranger in “fleeting” contact and Mr Merlino called it “a variant of the virus that is quicker and more contagious than we’ve seen before”.

“On the advice of chief health officer, Brett Sutton, the current restrictions will remain in place in Melbourne for a further seven days, with some small changes,” he said.

“This will give us a full 14 days – one full cycle of the virus – to make sure we understand how and where this mutation is moving.”

Mr Merlino said the government planned to relax restrictions for regional Victorians at 11.59pm Thursday but cautioned it would “use the next 24 hours to continue tracing and testing and confirm that this change can go ahead”.

A long list of distinctions for regional areas were outlined by the State Government, with the most significant differences being that residents could leave home for any reason, masks would be required outdoors only if 1.5 metres physical distancing couldn’t be maintained, public gatherings would be permitted for up to 10 people, schools would reopen, and higher education and training could also open only if studying at home was not possible.

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