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Concern as Victorians stay away from emergency departments; state records 43 new COVID-19 cases, nine deaths

Emergency department presentations for heart attacks are down by 18 per cent and by 24 per cent for strokes.

There has also been a noticeable reduction in screening, diagnosis and early treatment for cancers.

“I want to stress that our hospitals are safe for people to attend,” Ms Mikakos said.

“We are seeing about a 30 per cent reduction in reports for the five most common cancers – colon-rectal, prostate, breast, melanoma and lung cancer.

“This is concerning because deferred care can lead to worse health outcomes. It can lead to longer hospitalisation stay, it can lead to tragedy. So we are urging Victorians today to continue to visit their GP, to take their regular medication, and if they have any lumps or bumps or symptoms that they are concerned about, please do not defer seeking medical care.”

Of the 385 new cases reported over the past week, 89 have been in healthcare workers. At least 55 of those workers are from the aged care sector, while four work in hospitals.

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Andrews says curfew key to limiting movement

Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews continued his defence of Melbourne’s curfew.

Key crossbench MP, Fiona Patten, who guaranteed the Andrews government’s state of emergency powers wants Melbourne’s curfew lifted following revelations that neither Victoria Police nor Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton asked for Melburnians to be confined to their homes between 8pm and 5am.

Mr Andrews said there was an “immediate and pronounced and sustained drop in road use” in all council areas between 7pm and 12am, and between 12am and 6am.

“What it shows you is quite a massive drop in the amount of movement that we have seen right across Melbourne while the curfew has been on, and what’s clear, if you can limit movement, you will limit the spread of this virus,” he said.

Friday’s case tally comes after 51 new infections were reported on Thursday, 76 on Wednesday, 55 on Tuesday and 41 on Monday.

Lockdown restrictions will only start to ease significantly in Melbourne from September 28, if Victoria’s 14-day case average falls below 50.

The average for metropolitan Melbourne fell to 65 on Friday, Mr Andrews said.

Country lockdown set to ease despite mystery case in Echuca

The Premier said regional Victoria’s stage three lockdown could be eased as early as next week, despite a mystery case with no obvious source of infection emerging in Echuca near the NSW border.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said a special committee would examine the Echuca case more closely.

“What that means for people in Echuca is … please get tested while we’re still trying to work this out,” he said.

Mr Andrews said it would be impractical to police different restrictions across six or 10 different regional zones according to case numbers.

“[With] the notion of dividing up regional Victoria for say one week, people would barely be familiar with the rules before we took them off and said, ‘all of regional Victoria can open,'” he said.

“Let’s get to the bottom of that Echuca matter, and hopefully next week we can have good news for regional Victoria.”

A Roy Morgan poll released on Thursday found that 70 per cent of 2325 Victorians surveyed approved of the way Mr Andrews was handling his job as Premier and 63 per cent said the curfew should remain.

Bourke Street, typically one of Melbourne's busiest streets, has been deserted during the extended lockdown.

Bourke Street, typically one of Melbourne’s busiest streets, has been deserted during the extended lockdown. Credit:Daniel Pockett

More than half the participants said Melbourne residents should now be able to visit immediate family members and 46 per cent said the five-kilometre travel limit should be lifted. More than three-quarters said the government should compensate all small businesses forced to close due to lockdown restrictions.

Push for every Victorian household to get $100 restaurant voucher

Every Victorian household would receive a $100 restaurant voucher under a proposal from the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association to save the hospitality industry.

Households of two or more people would receive a $100 voucher, while singles would receive $50.

“Restaurants and cafes and caterers want to be serving customers, it’s in their blood and their DNA, it’s their life. And the best form of recovery for restaurants is customers,” the association’s chief executive Wes Lambert said.

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Melbourne City Council deputy mayor Arron Wood is also floating an online voucher scheme across the CBD, with ratepayers to receive discounts at restaurants and small businesses.

Myer Christmas windows cancelled

For the first time in 64 years, children and families will miss out on Melbourne’s famed Myer Christmas windows.

The Bourke Street Mall spectacle is a staple of the city’s festive season, with more than 1.2 million Australian and international visitors viewing the windows each year.

Children enthralled by the Myer Christmas windows on December 20, 1991

Children enthralled by the Myer Christmas windows on December 20, 1991Credit:Ian Kenins

A spokeswoman for Myer said the department store had been “exploring every possible option” for the windows to go ahead, but the state government’s Sunday road map had made it impossible to proceed.

“With the government’s latest announcements and recommendations we are unfortunately unable to proceed with the windows like we have done in past years,” she said.

The Myer Christmas windows have brought joy to children - and their parents - for decades.

The Myer Christmas windows have brought joy to children – and their parents – for decades.Credit:Dominic O’Brien

The company said it was still working through plans for COVID-safe Christmas shopping inside the store.

“It won’t be a normal Christmas,” Mr Andrews said.

“We don’t want it to be a lockdown Christmas. We want it to be a Christmas that can be as close to normal as possible, a COVID-normal Christmas. That means it will look different in lots of different ways.

“But the aim is to take these safe and steady steps and find that COVID-normal and have a Christmas that’s much closer to last Christmas than it otherwise would be.”

Victoria by the numbers

One woman in her 50, one woman in her 70s, three men in their 80s and four women in their 90s were among those who died overnight. Seven of the nine reported deaths were connected to aged care outbreaks.

There are 1336 active cases in Victoria, including 223 in healthcare workers.

There are 140 Victorians in hospital battling the virus, including 12 in intensive care and eight who are on a ventilator.

More than 13,300 tests were conducted on Thursday in what Mr Andrews said was a good sign.

In regional Victoria, the number of active cases is 74, with four new cases emerging in Colac in the state’s south-west, one in Geelong and two in Bendigo.

In disability facilities settings, there are 13 active cases, including seven staff six residents.

Mr Andrews said 92.3 per cent of new positive cases were being interviewed by contact tracers within 24 hours of being diagnosed, while 98.3 per cent of people identified as being close contacts were notified within 48 hours.

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