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Picnics among outdoor freedoms granted as Victoria records 514 new COVID cases

Picnics are back on the blanket from Saturday.

Picnics are back on the blanket from Saturday.Credit:Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Officials decided against waiting until Sunday to grant additional freedoms to Victorians, but the plan to release the road map at the end of this weekend remains.

The plan is expected to set out how stranded Victorians can come home, and will likely include home quarantine.

There will also be some changes to COVID-19 rules in regional Victoria, excluding Ballarat.

From 11.59pm Friday night, regional indoor gyms and pools can reopen, although density limits will apply and spas, saunas and steam rooms are excluded.

Hydrotherapy and swimming lessons may occur. Tour transport is allowed with up to 10 people per vehicle, however, there is no change to the current rules which allow movement around the state and public gatherings of up to 10 people.

The announcements come as the state records 514 new local cases, a record for the current Delta outbreak, and is the first time since August last year that more than 500 cases have been reported in a single day.

Of the new cases, 148 have been linked to known clusters, meaning more than 350 cases remain a mystery.

Breakdown of Thursday’s 514 new local cases

Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar provided a breakdown of the state’s new 514 local cases during the daily coronavirus briefing.

  • Three cases are in the regional city of Ballarat;
  • Seven are elsewhere in regional Victoria – four in the Mitchell Shire, one in Murrindindi, and two in Greater Geelong (all connected to existing clusters);
  • 317 are in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, including in Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, and Glenroy;
  • 124 are in Melbourne’s western suburbs, including in Truganina, Altona North, and Deer Park;
  • 46 cases are in Melbourne’s south east, including in Dandenong, Keysborough, and Clyde North;
  • 14 cases are in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, including in Doncaster and Donvale;
  • Three cases are currently under investigation.

Victorian COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said authorities were seeing more COVID-19 cases in Melbourne’s south-east.

“If you’re in the south-eastern suburbs – around Dandenong, around Keysborough, around Clyde North – if you’ve got any symptoms whatsoever, or please just check those exposure sites, we really need to see people coming forward to get tested in that part of our city,” Mr Weimar said.

“We think we’re starting to see some seeding out now, particularly from essential workers … moving from the north and west into the south-east, and obviously, we’re keen to stop it wherever we possibly can.“

More than 81,000 vaccine doses were administered in Victoria on Wednesday, including 41,758 at state hubs, while 61,961 test results were processed – a 12 per cent increase in the number of tests reported the previous day.

There are now 4370 active cases in the state.

Ballarat re-enters lockdown

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Ballarat residents began their first day of a week-long snap lockdown on Thursday as the number of positive cases in the city of about 100,000 climbed to six.

One of the three new cases in Ballarat is a mystery case, Mr Weimar said.

Changes for construction workers

Mr Andrews also announced on Thursday that construction workers will need to get vaccinated if they want to keep working.

Workers in the industry will need to show evidence to their employer that they have had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 11.59pm on Thursday, September 23.

Limited medical exemptions and proof-of-booking exceptions will apply, in line with requirements for aged care workers.

Church, Alfred hospital’s emergency centre added as exposure sites

A Melbourne church and emergency department are among the COVID-19 exposure sites identified by Victorian health authorities on Thursday.

St Joseph Melkite Catholic Church at Fairfield was listed as a tier-1 exposure site across three days, while Casey Hospital’s emergency department waiting room at Berwick, in Melbourne’s south-east, was declared a tier-1 site for an exposure on Tuesday, between 8.28pm and 11.36pm.

Also declared tier-1 sites were a childcare at Diamond Creek and TopGear Wheels and Tyres in Heidelberg West – both in Melbourne’s north-east.

The Alfred’s emergency and trauma centre was listed as a tier-1 exposure site on Wednesday evening, as was a construction site and an early learning centre attached to a junior school in Ballarat.

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An Alfred Health spokesperson said a patient visited the emergency department on Tuesday night and tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a construction site in Cerberus Lane in Canadian, a suburb of Ballarat, was listed as a tier-1 exposure site on Wednesday night, after a case attended the worksite on September 10 from 6.50am to 5.30pm.

Clarendon College’s Early Learning Centre is also a tier-1 exposure site on September 10, from 8.15am to 9am.

But The Ballarat Courier is reporting anyone who attended the Mair Street campus, including the junior school, at any time last Friday is now subject to a 48-hour “stop and stay” directive, meaning they must go home immediately and get tested after a child tested positive.

“Given the speed with which the Delta variant is moving from person to person, anyone associated with the school, and their household, is asked to quarantine for 48 hours in the first instance,” Grampians Public Health clinical director Dr Karen Aarons wrote to parents.

A playground, an IGA and two shops have also been added to the list of exposure sites in the city.

Premier Daniel Andrews, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar on Wednesday.

Premier Daniel Andrews, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar on Wednesday.Credit: Eddie Jim

No guidance for Wodonga as Albury re-enters lockdown

No lockdown has been announced for Wodonga, despite its sister city over the border Albury going into lockdown.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced the lockdown for Albury on Thursday after two mystery cases were detected in the border city.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said while there would be “knock-on effects” for Wodonga, he did not say the city would join Albury in lockdown.

“In some many ways they are one place,” Mr Andrews said.

“We might have to reach out and try and support them.”

A train service from Sydney to Albury has also been listed as an exposure site.

Albury-Wodonga newspaper The Border Mail also reports there are exposure sites – a cafe and a restaurant – in the nearby Victorian town of Beechworth.

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