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Residents in regional areas of the state can now have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, and cafes will be able to seat up to 50 people outside, with locked-down Melburnians looking on with hope and envy.
Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, reported 28 new cases on Thursday, the lowest daily rise since June 24 and down from daily highs above 700 in early August.
The southeastern state, at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in the nation, reported eight deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours, the same as reported a day earlier.
Average daily cases over the last two weeks in Melbourne, which is on an extended hard lockdown until Sept. 28, continued their downward trend, falling below 45 on Thursday.
The average dropped below 50 on Wednesday, the level the state has set to start easing curbs for the city.
Victoria, home to one-quarter of Australia's 25 million people, now accounts for about 75% of the country's more than 26,800 Covid-19 cases and 90% of its 832 deaths.
'RING OF STEEL'
Victoria Police have increased cordons - a "ring of steel" - on Melbourne's outskirts to crack down on regional travel, with rules wound back overnight.
Under the regional travel crackdown, Victorian adults who leave a restricted area without a lawful excuse will be handed a $4957 fine.
The new offence comes into effect from Thursday and is designed to deter Melburnians from entering regional Victoria.
It will be complemented by beefed-up roadblocks, creating lengthy traffic delays as vehicles pass through.
The next step for regional Victoria means pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve people outside with strict density quotas, while outdoor gathering limits will be upped to 10.
Regional Victorians will also be able to leave their homes without restriction and all shops can reopen.
They will still be able to travel via Melbourne to reach other parts of the state but can only stop for three reasons including food, care and permitted work and study.
Caravan parks and camping grounds in regional areas are also able to re-open from Thursday, but with group booking restrictions.
It comes as Premier Daniel Andrews indicated some lockdown measures in Melbourne were unlikely to end early, despite the city reaching a key roadmap milestone.
Meanwhile, elective surgeries will ramp up to 75% capacity in regional Victoria from Wednesday.
Melbourne-based elective surgeries are likely to increase to 75% from September 28.
- Reuters and AAP