Victorian authorities have warned excited Melbourne revellers not to jump the gun and plan “freedom” parties ahead of the official easing of the world’s longest Covid lockdown lifting at 11.59pm Thursday.
Melbourne’s curfew will continue to apply on Thursday until midnight, potentially limiting plans for pubs to reopen when the clock strikes 12.
Victoria is set to reach its 70% double-dose vaccination target for the over 16 population sometime between Wednesday and Thursday.
From Friday, pubs, restaurants and other dining venues can open with up to 20 fully vaccinated people indoors and 50 people outdoors for seated service.
Victoria’s Covid-19 response commander, Jeroen Weimar, said on Wednesday there would be no leave pass for excited revellers.
“There’s no leave pass between 9pm and midnight tomorrow night so you’ll have to wait for the witching hour to strike and then you can make your way down to the local pub, I am sure there will be some pubs that will be open,” he said.
Weimar said hospitality workers were not classified as essential workers, so they could not begin work at venues until the curfews officially ends.
Businesses would “have to manage” and Weimar advised people to be cautious as restrictions ease.
“We all want to go to have a drink at midnight tomorrow night, or after midnight – I might wait till the next day – we all want to enjoy those new freedoms and I’m sure we all will, but can we all please just remember this is one important step,” he said.
“It’s not a mass freedom day, it’s not a mass ‘let’s go completely nuts’. There is still a significant risk,” he said.
Victoria reported 1,841 new cases of Covid-19 overnight, and 12 deaths, including a woman in her 50s, a man in his 70s, three men and two women in their 80s, three men and a woman in their 90s, and a man in his 100s.
There are 22,596 active cases in the state, with 786 people in hospital, 147 in intensive care, and 97 on a ventilator.
Of the cases in hospital yesterday, 89% were not fully vaccinated, and of those cases in intensive care, 96% were not fully vaccinated.
Minister for creative industries, Danny Pearson, also announced the lineup for a concert on 30 October at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where the government will test out how to run larger events.
The lineup includes King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Baker Boy, Amyl and the Sniffers, Grace Cummings and Vika and Linda Bull, with tickets to go on sale at 3pm on 22 October.
The ticket price will be $29.90, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be able to attend, and will need to show proof of vaccination on entry. There will be allocated seating and picnic areas, and attendees will be required to wear masks.
So far, 1.8m Victorians have uploaded their vaccination certificate to the Service Victoria app. There will be more trials of live music events in the coming weeks as the state opens up.
“This is a first sign of us coming back. They say the darkest hour is the hours before the dawn,” Pearson said. “We see the sun rising … over the horizon, in the distance. Begging us back to the things that we love most. The things that we want to do.”
From Friday, people who are fully vaccinated and identified as close contacts of a Covid case will only need to isolate for seven days and get tested on days one and six. The rule will apply retrospectively, so recently identified close contacts will not need to wait the full 14 days.
An announcement on whether the regional Victorian town of Mildura will exit lockdown at the same time as Melbourne will be made on Thursday.
Of the 1,841 cases announced on Wednesday, Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, including Casey and Greater Dandenong, accounted for 575 cases. The northern suburbs are slowly reducing their share of the cases, down to 477 on Wednesday. 547 of the cases are in the western suburbs, with 73 in the eastern suburbs.
There were 153 new cases in regional Victoria overnight, including 23 in Mitchell Shire, 22 in Greater Bendigo and 21 in Greater Geelong.