COVID-19 lockdown to lift in most of regional Victoria as state records 221 new cases

Greater Shepparton will remain in lockdown for at least the next week as new cases continue to be detected there.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Wednesday, September 8, 2021.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Source: AAP

Lockdown will end in most of regional Victoria this week, with the exception of Greater Shepparton, as the state records 221 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases.

From 11.59pm Thursday, stay-at-home orders will be removed, travel restrictions lifted, offices will be allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity or 10 people, and businesses can reopen with caps on patron numbers.

Prep to Year 2 students, as well as those in Year 12, will be able to return to the classroom, but remote learning will remain in place for other cohorts.

"Regional Victorians have done an amazing job, that is why these steps are possible," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.

Early learning centres, kindergarten, child care and family day care will also reopen, while funerals will be permitted for up to 20 people, with weddings allowed for up to 10 people - plus those conducting the service.

Face masks will still be required indoors and outdoors - apart from private residences - unless an exception applies. The ban on visiting homes remains, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

Greater Shepparton to stay under lockdown  

Mr Andrews said Greater Shepparton must remain in lockdown for now, as cases are still being reported in that area.

"On Shepparton, we hope to have them catch up to the rest of regional Victoria sometime next week; and we will make those announcements as soon as we have tidied up the last bits of the outbreak there," he said.

Melbourne will remain under lockdown restrictions until at least 70 per cent of eligible Victorians receive their first vaccine.

More than 60 per cent of Victorians have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far. 

Mr Andrews said a "significant boost" to police enforcement will help control movement from metropolitan Melbourne into the regions.

"If you are travelling into regional Victoria, you can expect to be pulled over. It won't necessarily be every single car but there will be number plate recognition technology used," he said.

People queue in their cars for a COVID test at a drive-through testing site at Shepparton Sports Precinct in Shepparton, Victoria, Tuesday, August 24, 2021.
Source: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett

"If you don't have a good, lawful reason to go to regional Victoria, then please do not go to regional Victoria."

Of the new infections reported in Victoria in the 24 hours to midnight on Tuesday, the health department said 98 have so far been linked to known outbreaks and cases. 

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 1,920 and comes as police investigate an illegal gathering in Melbourne's southeast.

Fines handed to those at Melbourne synagogue gathering

So far six people have been fined $5452 each, or more than $32,000 collectively, after up to 30 people gathered to mark the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in breach of lockdown restrictions.

Police fine up to 100 after synagogue gathering

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said there will be more fines issued "today or in coming days" as he urged those who attended the gathering to come forward.

"My advice is really clear to the people who were there last night - come forward, identify yourselves and allow us to process you through our systems and apply the law as it is today," he said.

Members of the Orthodox Jewish congregation entered a building, believed to be a prayer room, near a Ripponlea synagogue early on Tuesday morning and told police they wouldn't leave until nightfall.

Police surrounded the front and back entrances of the building and took details of those who began to file out just after 8pm. 

Initial reports suggested up to 100 people had attended.

Mr Barrett said that number is still being investigated, but he has been advised it was "between 20 and 30" people.

Several worshippers became aggressive and an overnight news cameraman is being treated for a concussion at The Alfred after being assaulted.

Victoria Police speak with people as they exit from a building near a Ripponlea synagogue in Melbourne, Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
Source: AAP

Mr Barrett said the assault has been reported to police and will be investigated.

Police will remain in the area for the remainder of the Jewish new year, which ends after sundown on Wednesday.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) said the actions of a few "do not represent the vast majority of our community" who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah at home with only the people they lived with.

"The JCCV expresses its strong disappointment in and condemns the actions of a small group of people who appear to have not followed COVID restrictions," a spokesman said.

He said local organisations "have gone to great lengths" to encourage the community to stay within the rules.

With AAP.

Published 8 September 2021 at 8:52am, updated 8 September 2021 at 1:13pm
By Lucy Murray
Source: SBS News