Victoria’s most hated and bizarre Covid restriction ends at midnight Friday – the requirement to keep a facemask on even when drinking a beer or wine.
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton described the change, made at Friday’s Covid briefing as ‘small but important’ as the state moves to allow more freedom outdoors.
‘At midnight tonight, the directions were changed to allow the removal of mask outdoors for the consumption of alcohol and that is a reflection of a push to more outdoor recreation activities including picnics,’ Mr Sutton said.
Victoria’s most hated and bizarre Covid restriction ends at midnight Friday – the requirement to keep a facemask on even when drinking a beer or wine. Masked Spanish revellers are pictured juggling drinks and Covid rules
Once 70 per cent of the state’s population above 16 is fully vaccinated, expected around October 26, Melbourne’s curfew will ease, the travel limit will be expanded and venues can open outdoors to the fully vaccinated (pictured, masked diners in Melbourne)
The change comes after it was revealed Victoria Police are investigating footage of Premier Daniel Andrews not wearing a face mask.
Police confirmed they are probing a video which showed the Premier heading to a news conference on Thursday.
‘As the incident is being reviewed by investigators we will not be providing further comment at this stage,’ a spokesperson said.
Victoria recorded 1,838 new Covid-19 cases and five deaths on Friday.
The growing outbreak is blamed on unvaccinated residents as the state anxiously waits for restrictions to ease.
Impossible task… a woman examines a bottle of wine she cannot drink while wearing a mask
Patrons are pictured at a Melbourne beer garden last year – while you could still have a beer without wearing a facemask
The new cases marks a pandemic record and raises the total number of active infections in the state to 16,823.
Acting chief health officer Professor Ben Cowie said he was disappointed by the number of new infections and claimed the spike could have been avoided if the majority had been vaccinated.
‘This is unfortunate because it’s despite the fact that 87 per cent of the cases were eligible for vaccination at the time they were diagnosed with Covid-19,’ he said.
Daniel Andrews has been filmed without a face mask while walking with police now investigating the footage after it sparked community outrage
Despite the rise in case numbers, the percentage requiring hospital treatment was falling, standing at 3.35 per cent on Friday compared to 6.25 per cent a month ago.
Five more deaths with Covid were reported on Friday, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 70.
The rate of infection continues to grow, with 1838 cases from 77,554 tests representing a positive rate of 2.37 per cent compared to 2.12 per cent a day earlier and 1.82 per cent a week ago.
By comparison, NSW positive rate at the height of its Delta outbreak was 1.1 per cent.
Of the new cases in the week to Tuesday, 79 per cent were unvaccinated.
Victoria recorded 1,838 more Covid-19 cases on Friday with the outbreak worsening just weeks before the state is scheduled to begin easing restrictions
Premier Daniel Andrews said daily cases were ‘higher than we’d like them to be’ and urged Melburnians and regional residents in lockdown to follow the rules for a couple more weeks.
Once 70 per cent of the state’s population above 16 is fully vaccinated, expected around October 26, Melbourne’s curfew will ease, the travel limit will be expanded and venues can open outdoors to the fully vaccinated.
Victorians will have to wait until the 80 per cent double-dose target for significant changes, forecast for November 5, including Melbourne hospitality reopening for seated service and visitors to be allowed in homes.
Conversely, fully vaccinated adults in NSW will receive a swathe of new freedoms from Monday, with up to 10 adults allowed to visit homes, and people allowed to eat at restaurants and go to the gym.
Mr Andrews said he had no plans to alter Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown, but the state opposition said the premier’s plan ‘doesn’t cut it’.
The opposition is calling for a return of customer density limits at the 70 per cent target, paving the way for hospitality venues to open indoors.
Some 55 per cent of Victorians aged above 16 are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 84 per cent have received their first dose.
Dr Katherine Gibney from the Doherty Institute said the state should expect more cases in the coming weeks, putting strain on the health system.
More Victorians are being hospitalised while battling the virus, with 39 people admitted on Wednesday, bringing the total in hospital to 564 (pictured, residents in Melbourne)
Busy St Kilda Beach on the weekend, with lockdown fatigue setting in across the city a possible contributor to skyrocketing infections
‘The modelling does show the numbers will go up in the next couple of weeks before they start to plateau and turn around,’ she told Nine’s Today Show on Friday.
‘There is no doubt there is a strain on the hospital system already and that is going to get worse but it is being managed in terms of spreading cases around amongst Victorian hospitals.’
Meanwhile, a Victoria Police officer has been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 after working at recent anti-vaccine protests in Melbourne CBD.
Police Association of Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt has confirmed two officers from an inner-north west Melbourne police station have tested positive for COVID-19.