Restrictions, including household close contact rules, to be lifted by the weekend

While the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron appears to be subsiding, another strain has arrived as we head into winter. So far, 67.1 per cent of adults have received a third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which McRae said needed to be higher.

The seven-day average of cases has dropped to below 10,000, after 8976 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday; 443 people are in hospital with the virus in Victoria.

Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist from the University of Melbourne, said there was room to make sensible changes and named the requirement for asymptomatic household contacts to stay home for seven days as the most obvious place for change. Contacts would need to have negative rapid antigen tests every day once the changes occur, in a plan being discussed by officials in Victoria and NSW with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

But Blakely said Australians needed to realize “nothing is forever. We could have a bad variant come our way and need to retreat ”.

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Premier Andrews said on Tuesday that data from a few more days was needed to establish the downward trend.

“The seven-day average, very pleasingly, is coming down. That says to me – I’m not a scientist, I’m not a doctor, I’m not the chief health officer – but it says to me that the peak has come and gone. We just have to wait and see though that those few days of data turn into the trend that we hope it is. ”

Health Minister Martin Foley is responsible for making any changes to COVID-19 rules under Victoria’s new pandemic-specific legislation.

“I think you’ll find very soon he will make some positive announcements,” Andrews said. “I think you’ll hear from him very, very soon.”

The Age last week reported the Victorian economy could open by the end of the month to allow the unvaccinated into hospitality and entertainment venues. Discussions have considered to what extent vaccine mandates in some industries could be scaled back.

The pandemic declaration could be lifted in July under the changes being considered.

Jenny Le, manager at Saigon Street Eats in Balaclava, is looking forward to mask rules lifting in hospitality.

Jenny Le, manager at Saigon Street Eats in Balaclava, is looking forward to mask rules lifting in hospitality.Credit:Penny Stephens

Jenny Le, manager at Saigon Street Eats in Balaclava, has been looking forward to the removal of mask mandates in hospitality.

“We are so ready. We’ve been ready since the lift of the lockdown, ”Ms Le said on Tuesday.

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She said customers and staff felt the same because masks sometimes made it difficult to hear and understand each other.

“I miss the engagement with the customers as well. I can still recognize them when they come through, but it’s just that customer service – I just feel like there’s this wall blocking us. ”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy continued his push to drop isolation rules for close contacts who test negative.

“We need to have sensible requirements around isolation. If you test negative and you do not have symptoms, you should go back to work, ”Mr Guy said. “It is time for us to move on, sensibly and safely.”

With Sumeyya Ilanbey

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