Vic lockdown over but Delta threat lingers

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned the threat of the Delta strain will linger for months.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned the threat of the Delta strain will linger for months.

Victoria is tiptoeing out of its statewide lockdown, with authorities warning the war against the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant is not over.

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the lockdown - the state's fifth in 17 months - will lift at 11.59pm on Tuesday as stay-home orders and the five-kilometre travel limit are scrapped.

But he said repealing the 12-day lockdown would not spell an end to the threat.

"It's not over," Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

"We've got to be vigilant against this virus, the Delta strain, in the days and weeks and months ahead until we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can."

Under the eased restrictions all students will return to schools, hospitality and retail traders can reopen, and outdoor gatherings are allowed for up to 10 people.

Live music venues, dance classes and gyms can also throw open their doors with a strict density limit, while workers may return to offices at 25 per cent capacity.

But many onerous restrictions will remain, with health officials still wary of the Delta variant that sparked the shutdown.

"We're on the cusp of containing our second Delta outbreak ... but we can't call it mission accomplished yet," Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

Victorians won't be able to have visitors to their homes and masks remain compulsory indoors and outdoors.

Professor Sutton said homes were the riskiest setting for spreading the virus, as evidenced by the worsening outbreak in NSW.

"It's where 80 per cent of transmission is happening in Sydney right now," he said.

Other safeguards will include no crowds at sports events or theatres, while visitors to snowfields aged 12 and over must carry proof of a negative test within 72 hours of arrival.

The restrictions will remain in place until August 10.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien labelled the batch of eased restrictions "lockdown lite" and called for urgent rent relief for small businesses.

"This is not freedom," he said.

With NSW posting 172 new local cases, a daily high during its six-week outbreak, Victoria has thrown four local government areas out of the border bubble.

Residents of Wagga Wagga, Hay and Lockhart and Murrumbidgee councils won't be able to freely cross into Victoria from Wednesday and must apply for a special exemption unless granted a specified worker permit.

Mr Andrews said he didn't enjoy locking out the communities but had "no choice" after NSW rejected his proposal to set up a "ring of steel" around Sydney.

The statewide lockdown was called on July 15 and initially slated to run five days before it was extended by a week as contact tracers struggled to chase down people prior to becoming infectious.

Ten new local COVID-19 cases were reported in Victoria on Tuesday, all linked to current outbreaks and in isolation for their entire infectious period.

There are now 190 infections linked to the outbreak, which was seeded by a Sydney removalist crew and a separate family who returned from NSW.

The state's COVID commander Jeroen Weimar said one of the removalists had been handed a $200 fine for not wearing a mask, in line with health directions.

"I'm pleased we can draw a line under this incident as we start to draw a line under the subsequent outbreak," he said.

After reviewing the health department's investigation, Victoria Police said there was no evidence of other offending and would not take any further action.

"This matter is closed from a police perspective," a spokesman said.

Australian Associated Press