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Victoria reports 510 new local COVID-19 cases ahead of slight easing of restrictions

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The figures come as Melburnians are urged not to abuse new COVID-19 ‘freedoms’ allowing up to five fully vaccinated adults to gather for a walk or picnic from this weekend.

To mark Victoria reaching its 70 per cent first dose vaccination target on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a suite of “modest” restriction changes for Melbourne and Ballarat from Saturday including small outdoor gatherings.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults will be able to meet up with one other person from a different household for a walk or picnic, while that figure grows to five from two households, plus dependents, for fully vaccinated adults.

The premier said police will not be going from park to park to check the vaccination status of those gathering for picnics, but he hoped Victorians would “do the right thing”.

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“There’s a degree of good faith in this,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

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An exemption to the current ban on removing masks to drink alcohol outside of the home has not been granted, effectively making it illegal to have a tipple during picnics unless done through a straw.

Other rule changes from 11.59pm on Friday include a doubling of the amount of time allowed outdoors to four hours, the expansion of the travel limit from five kilometres to 10, and the reopening of outdoor gym equipment and skate parks.

The government’s full roadmap out of lockdown, outlining restrictions through to November, will be released on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the government has mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for construction workers, and banned them from travelling between Melbourne and the regions for work.

The move follows outbreaks at multiple sites as well as a construction worker triggering a cluster in Ballarat, plunging the regional city into a week-long lockdown and bringing it into line with Melbourne’s restrictions.

Of Thursday’s 514 new cases – the highest daily total since August 2020 – 10 were detected in regional Victoria, including three in Ballarat.

Two were contacts of the infected construction worker, while the third is a mystery case that has been infectious in the community since last Tuesday.

Some 10,000 additional Pfizer doses will be sent to Ballarat in the next two to three weeks to combat the unfolding outbreak.

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