Victoria has recorded 12 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and a further two fatalities, both linked to aged care.
The 14-day rolling case average for metropolitan Melbourne continues to decline, falling to 26.7 cases.
That number is well below the 30 to 50 case threshold needed to enable an easing of restrictions from next Monday.
Eight of Thursday’s cases were linked to known outbreaks.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the state is “well on track” to move to Step 2 of the re-opening roadmap.
But he moved to tone down expectations about Sunday’s announcements, having hinted on Wednesday coronavirus restrictions could be lifted faster than planned.
“Sunday will not be a day of massive steps, the roadmap does not speak to that, it is not a day when we essentially through the doors open,” he said.
“It will be, however, steady and safe steps, and that sense of gradual, continual progress is what we are able to do because we have a gradual and continued decline in these numbers.”
Under the government roadmap announced earlier this month, the planned changes on Monday would include public gatherings being allowed for five people from two households.
Schools, child care and some workplaces would open, along with outdoor pools, while personal trainers could operate with two clients.
There could be outdoor religious services for up to five people, plus a leader.
Premier stands by embattled Health Minister
Premier Andrews defended the performance of Health Minister Jenny Mikakos after the Health Workers Union called for her resignation, accusing her of “breathtaking incompetence”.
The union’s letter to Premier Daniel Andrews was made public ahead of Ms Mikakos’s appearance before an inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program, which led to the state’s devastating second wave of coronavirus.
“Sadly, our union’s relationship with your government is now officially dead, due solely to the breathtaking incompetence of your current Health Minister,” HWU Secretary Diana Asmar wrote.
“For the good of all Victorians, and health workers, I ask that you insist on Ms Mikakos’ resignation, effective immediately.”
When asked if Ms Mikakos lacked the competence for the role, Mr Andrews said he had “confidence in all of my ministers or they wouldn’t be in my government”.
“If there are issues if any of those groups have in the community, particularly health sector, want to address, we are more than happy to sit down and work with those issues,” he said.
The Premier is scheduled to give evidence at the inquiry on Friday afternoon.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation also backed Ms Mikakos, saying she is a hardworking minister and across her portfolio.
Food relief boost
The State Government also unveiled an $11.3 million in funding for food relief services across Victoria to assist vulnerable residents.
$5 million will be given in one-off grants to local community organisations, which will assist in part in the rolling out of new COVID safe delivery models.
The existing food relief program for Victorians in mandatory self-isolation has also been extended, while additional funding worth $3.5 million has been allocated to strengthen food banks in the regions.
“The overwhelming majority of this money will go to meet greater demand for the services that these amazing groups provide every single day,” Mr Andrews said.
Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 9pm and 5am.
During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.
Between 5am and 9pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative. The full list of restrictions can be found here.
All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
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