MELBOURNE, Australia: The “ring of steel” separating Melbourne and regional Victoria has been lifted after 123 days and 25-kilometre travel limit dropped as the state recorded no fresh case of coronavirus in the past 10 days.
However, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) including facemask directive will continue. Melbourne residents poured out of the city on Monday as coronavirus travel restrictions were lifted.
Motorists were banked up at various exit points, and police struggled to contain the crowds while temporary infrastructure was removed.
Traffic was seen streaming out of Melbourne and along the Western Highway, with traffic also busy on the West Gate Bridge heading out of the city.
In Bacchus Marsh, the “ring of steel” checkpoint was still being packed up at lunchtime on Monday, with traffic reduced to one lane as workers continued to move the roadblock.
The state on Monday recorded its 10th consecutive day with no new coronavirus cases or deaths. There are currently just four active cases.
While a person who recently arrived from West Australia tested positive to Covid-19 on Sunday, Victoria’s coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the case was revealed to be “viral shedding” rather than a currently infectious patient.
Weimar said people could continue shedding the virus in low, but detectable levels for several weeks after being infectious without presenting a risk of transmitting Covid-19.
“We did have a positive result last night (but) upon further investigation that was determined to be an old case, he was previously quarantined outside of the state,” he said.
“We have analysed that as a case of a viral shedding and therefore it will not be included in our numbers.”
Daniel Andrews on Sunday confirmed previously promised easing of restrictions from Monday, flagging greater freedoms from November 23.
Melbourne’s gyms, cinemas and museums are now allowed to reopen. Cafes, restaurants and pubs can host more patrons both in and outdoors.
All Victorians will be permitted to have two people visit their home per day — from the same or different households.
The police said the easing of restrictions came as relief to its members “who, for a large part of this year, have been placed in the unenviable position of upholding restrictions which have impacted the lives of so many Victorians”.
I’ll be taking leave from this Thursday for a week. Longest break since January so very grateful to Allen Cheng @peripatetical for stepping in. Keep those 🍩 and those tests coming!
— Chief Health 🍩fficer, Victoria (@VictorianCHO) November 9, 2020
“Our members look forward to moving off checkpoints and back into police stations and communities,” the Police Association of Victoria said.
Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said he never doubted Victoria could get to the current point — with just four active cases and no new infections for nine consecutive days.
The rolling 14-day average has dropped to 0.4 in Melbourne and zero in regional Victoria, and there are no longer any active cases of the virus among healthcare workers.
Health authorities remain satisfied with the level of coronavirus testing across the state. After undertaking a further 10,365 coronavirus tests on Sunday — increasing Victoria’s 14-day testing total to 235,359 — Weimar said the rate had increased by 8 per cent over the past fortnight.
Crucially, Weimar said the testing rates were strong across the entire state, particularly metro Melbourne.
“I am particularly pleased to note that every single LGA across Victoria is increasing at least 1.5 per cent of its population over two weeks,” he said.