Melbourne’s 14-day coronavirus case average has dipped below 50 for the first time since early July, sparking hope the city is on track to a highly anticipated easing of harsh lockdown measures next week.
The average daily case number for metropolitan Melbourne dipped to 49.6 on Wednesday after the state recorded 42 new virus cases and eight more deaths overnight.
Metropolitan Melbourne must reach an average daily case rate of between 30 and 50 cases over the preceding fortnight to trigger an easing of lockdown measures from September 28.
It comes as Westfield Fountain Gate was today identified as a coronavirus hot spot, with a cluster emerging at the popular shopping centre in the city’s south-east.
Anyone who visited the Narre Warren shopping centre between August 18 and September 6 is encouraged to watch out for symptoms.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said nearby communities had been notified.
“Text messages have been sent out to Hallam residents this morning, encouraging them to be tested and we would encourage that community to take up the opportunity of three pop-up testing sites that have opened in the community in recent days,” she said.
Premier Daniel Andrews revealed the government would be “making an assessment in a short amount of time” about being in the critical 30-to-50 band, and if that could lead to easing of restrictions before September 28.
“We can’t just get to a point in time where we’re just a fraction under that average of 14 days. It needs to be in that band of 30 to 50 and we need to wait a little bit longer,” he said on Wednesday.
“I know that’s challenging but, as we’ve said, we are on track, we are on track to getting to that 30-to-50 band and staying there so we can take significant steps.”
The daily average in regional Victoria is 3.5. Its low average means tough restrictions have been eased, with the State Government announcing on Tuesday regional Victoria will “open up” on Thursday.
Under regional Victoria’s next step on the road map recovery plan, the four reasons to leave home will no longer apply.
Gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed outside, infants under 12 months not included, up to five visitors are allowed in the home from a nominated household and students will be staggered back to schools over the first couple of weeks of term 4.
Melburnians are hoping for similar respite, but the next step of reopening won’t go ahead in metropolitan Melbourne until the city reaches a 14-day daily case rate of between 30 and 50.
A further 14-day average must then be at zero in order for the whole state of Victoria to move to the last step on the State Government’s COVID recovery road map.
There are 81 virus cases from an unknown source in metropolitan Melbourne and one case in regional Victoria.