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Four more virus cases, another death, as Melburnians taste freedoms

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There are four more cases of coronavirus in Victoria, as the state begins its first day of wider freedoms after COVID rules were wound back on Sunday night.

Victorian health authorities confirmed the new cases, and one further fatality, on Monday morning.

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average of new infections is down to 7.2,  while it is 0.5 in regional Victoria. The city has also had 15 mystery cases in the past fortnight.

At least one of Victoria’s new cases is believed to be in Kilmore, where there was an outbreak of the virus earlier in October. A local bakery confirmed the case on social media on Sunday night.

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The employee is not considered to have been infectious while at work. However, bakery staff and their household contacts are in isolation.

Premier Daniel Andrews will give more details at a briefing later on Monday.

But the latest figures came as the state government eased a host of virus measures after months of stringent restrictions. Mr Andrews announced the move on Sunday, but many were unhappy he did not go far enough.

Melburnians can now travel 25 kilometres from home, and there is no limit on time spent outdoors.

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Outdoor gatherings have also increased from five people to 10 from two households, while facilities such as skate parks, golf courses and tennis courts have reopened.

Melburnians will also be able to get a haircut, see an allied health professional, renovate their home, wash their car and bid at an auction, though strict safety protocols will remain.

“I have announced today what is safe but will not undermine the sacrifice, the hard work, the pain, the amazing efforts that Victorians have put in,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday.

Barbers and hairdressers are back in business in Melbourne, but hospitality venues have to wait a bit longer. Photo: Getty

The rules have been relaxed further in regional Victoria. Outside Melbourne, up to two people plus dependents are now allowed to visit homes once a day, while hospitality venues can increase their capacity to 70 people outside and 40 people inside.

The boost to indoor dining does not apply in the regional town of Shepparton, where there was an outbreak of the coronavirus last week. After a mass boost to testing in the northern city, that cluster remains at three infections but residents will have wait another week to enjoy more indoor dining at hospitality venues.

Also, the checkpoints run by Victoria Police and the Australian Defence Force that separate metropolitan Melbourne from regional Victoria – the so-called “ring of steel” – remain.

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Melbourne is take its next steps on November 2, with hospitality venues be able to seat 50 people outside and 20 people inside, while retail and beauty and personal care services can resume.

People will be allowed to host a maximum of two people plus dependents at their homes once a day.

Mr Andrews signalled that step could be brought forward, depending on case numbers across Victoria in the next week.

But many industry groups are not impressed.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said it was an “an inexplicable and unacceptable delay”.

“There is no sound reason to continue the restrictions on business, especially with case numbers clearly on a downward trajectory,” she said.

The Australian Industry Group’s Victorian head Tim Piper said businesses and Victorians expected more.

“There is still no long-term coherent plan to rebuild a shattered Victorian economy,” Mr Piper said.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said restrictions should have been eased further, especially with respect to small businesses.

The state’s death toll from the virus has risen to 817, while the national figure is 905.

-with AAP

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