Victoria has reported one further case of COVID-19 and no deaths as Melbourne moves towards the easing of some lifestyle restrictions.
Saturday’s statistics show the 14-day rolling average of new cases up to Friday stands at 8.1 for metropolitan Melbourne and 0.5 for regional areas.
The state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 816 and the national tally is 904.
Melbourne residents are expecting COVID-19 restrictions to be eased on Oct 18 but it is unclear how much freedom will be regained.
Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated the changes would be more “in the social space”, prompting pleas from businesses operators for relief.
Under the government’s roadmap out of restrictions, the next step was set to begin in Melbourne on October 26. A 5km-from home limit was expected to be scrapped, the retail and hospitality industries reopened, public gatherings of up to 10 allowed outside and “household bubbles” of five indoors.
The step was moved forward to Monday but an outbreak at a Chadstone Shopping Centre store meant the city wouldn’t meet its required case targets.
Andrews has confirmed Sunday’s announcements will be “much more in the social space than in the economic space”, dashing the hopes of those in retail and hospitality industries.
On Friday the business community called for restrictions to be eased enough for businesses to reopen their doors.
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) chief executive Peter Strong criticised the premier’s office, saying until recently the state government had not paid proper heed to small business concerns.
“When the Victorian premier stands up on Sunday to announce changes to the state’s harsh lockdown laws, he needs to take into account health considerations … all of them,” Victorian head of the Australian Industry Group Tim Piper said.
“We also need to take a balanced approach to how we deal with it and not have the cure become worse than the disease.”
Piper called for hospitality to be able to operate outdoors and for a greater return of manufacturing and construction.
Meanwhile, the one-way trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand ran into problems on its first day as a group of 17 Kiwi travellers to Sydney got on a flight to Melbourne.
Victoria is not part of the bubble and the travellers were detained and turned back.
Health authorities continue to investigate Victoria’s 17 cases of COVID-19 for the fortnight up to Wednesday which have no known source.
Andi Yu in Melbourne