Victoria will be in some form of lockdown until October. Here's what that means for the weeks ahead

Victoria will be in some form of lockdown until October. Here's what that means for the weeks ahead

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Victoria's tough sixth lockdown has been extended again after recording its highest daily case increase in more than a year.

In a major shift in the approach to restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews conceded the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant was moving too quickly to realistically eliminate it in the state.

There will be some small changes from Friday in Melbourne and a slight easing of restrictions in regional Victoria from next week.

But freedoms beyond that will no longer just be hinged on the number of infections, with vaccination now the only way out of lockdown.

Small changes to playgrounds and childcare are this week's only changes

From 11:59pm on Thursday — the day the statewide lockdown was slated to lift — outdoor playgrounds will be back open.

Playgrounds were closed a fortnight ago, with health authorities citing outdoor transmission of the virus and parents gathering without masks as the reason.

The rules have been tightened to allow only children under the age of 12 to use the play equipment, with only one parent or carer present.

The adults cannot take off their masks to eat or drink while supervising, and a QR code will be present at each playground.

Families where both parents are authorised workers will be allowed to use in-home care, like babysitters, to look after their children.

Regional Victorian restrictions are expected to lift next week

Mr Andrews foreshadowed an easing of restrictions in regional Victoria next week, with the exception of Shepparton, where an outbreak continues to grow.

"Exactly when, we'll confirm as soon as we can," he said.

But said there will be significant restrictions across the state.

"It will not be a full opening up. It will not be hundreds of people at the pub or the restaurant or the cafe," he said.

But the next steps won't be until 70 per cent of adults have had a COVID vaccine

Once 70 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and older have had one dose of a vaccine, there will be a very modest easing of restrictions again.

At the current rate of vaccination, the state is expected to hit that target on September 23.

Once that threshold is met, the 5-kilometre radius for Victorians to move about in will be expanded to 10 kilometres.

The two-hour cap on outdoor exercise will be lifted to three hours, and outdoor exercise equipment and skate parks will be able to reopen. Outdoor personal training will be able to resume with the trainer and up to two clients. 

Real estate inspections will be able to resume, but only if the premises is unoccupied and it is for a new purchase or end of lease, and only one household can attend at any time.

In-home childcare will be allowed if only one parent is an essential worker, and up to five staff will be able to work at entertainment venues to broadcast performances.

Mr Andrews said the September 23 timeline could possibly be brought forward if more people got vaccinated, in particular with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"We cannot wait," Mr Andrews said.

"You need to get vaccinated and you need to get vaccinated as soon as possible. And the best vaccine is the one that you can access today."

The timeline may also be affected by a boost to Pfizer supplies secured after a deal with Singapore and announced yesterday.

But Mr Andrews cautioned "we can't wait for stocks to arrive" and urged people to consider the more than 70,000 AstraZeneca appointments available over the next three weeks.

Melbourne schools will stay closed for all of term 3

Schools in Melbourne will remain closed until at least October 5, when term 4 begins.

During that time, the government will give priority vaccination appointments to year 12 students, their teachers and examiners.

They will be able to book into state hubs from Monday September 6, or continue with existing GP or pharmacy bookings.

The government said the health and education departments would work with schools, teachers and parents on how to arrange bookings through the school.

Whether regional Victorian students will go back to face-to-face learning will be decided next week.

The General Achievement Test (GAT) will be sat on October 5, by which point the government is aiming to have all year 12s vaccinated with at least one dose.

Victoria is abandoning a COVID-zero goal

The new roadmap represents a massive shift in approach after 18 months of aiming for aggressive suppression of the virus, which meant keeping daily case numbers as close to zero as possible.

"It's a recognition of the reality of Delta," Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

"And of the fact that 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."

The strategy has now shifted to containing the growth of cases and preventing an overwhelming of the health system.

"[Cases] are going to go up. The question is by how many, and how fast," Mr Andrews said.

The goal is now to "keep the number of people who are vaccinated ticking over faster than the number of cases", Mr Andrews said.

"That is going to be challenging. It would be impossible if we opened up."

Melbourne will likely be in some form of lockdown until October

If and when the 70 per cent single-dose threshold is reached, Mr Andrews confirmed there would still be "very significant restrictions" in place in Melbourne.

The next major steps for the state will be in line with the National Cabinet plan based on Doherty Institute modelling, which will see more freedoms once 70 per cent, then 80 per cent, of the population aged 16 and up has had two doses.

Professor Sutton confirmed that at current rates, Victoria would hit the 70 per cent target in October, then 80 per cent in early November.

If there is a massive acceleration of cases before that point, Professor Sutton confirmed the state would review restriction levels and see if "tweaks" could be made.

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