Melbourne’s lockdown will be extended for another week as authorities remain concerned about the transmission of the Indian variant of COVID-19 between strangers.
Acting Premier James Merlino on Wednesday confirmed Greater Melbourne will remain in lockdown for seven more days.
“If we let this thing run its course, it will explode,” Mr Merlino said.
“We’ve got to run this to ground because if we don’t, people will die.
“And if that happens, it’s our most vulnerable – it’s our parents, it’s our grandparents, it’s Victorians with underlying conditions or compromised immunity, it is those Victorian who will pay the price.”
But restrictions are set to ease in regional Victoria from 11.59pm on Thursday.
Melbourne residents will continue to have only five reasons to leave home: to shop for food and essential items, to provide or receive care, for exercise, work or study, or to get vaccinated.
The travel limit for exercise and shopping will extend from 5km to 10km, with compulsory wearing of masks both indoors and outdoors to remain in place.
Students will also return to face-to-face learning, while some outdoor jobs can resume.
“At the end of another seven days, we do expect to be in a position to carefully ease restrictions in Melbourne, but there will continue to be differences between the settings in Melbourne compared to regional Victoria,” Mr Merlino said.
He also confirmed travel restrictions in regional Victoria will be lifted, as will the five reasons for leaving home.
The state government will also extend its support for business, with an extra $209 million in grants.
Mr Merlino added Victoria has again called on the federal government for more financial support.
“I do hope that the Commonwealth will swiftly confirm that they will step up and provide that support,” he said.
“If they do not, I will be raising this directly at national cabinet on Friday.”
The “circuit-breaker” lockdown was meant to end at 11.59pm on Thursday.
Victoria recorded six new locally acquired cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the latest outbreak to 60 active infections.
Of the five new cases, one is a person who travelled to NSW while potentially infectious.
There are now 4800 close contacts self-isolating as part of the outbreak and more than 350 exposure sites across the state, including country petrol stations in Euroa, Glenrowan and Wallan.
In the 24 hours to midnight, 51,033 people were tested for COVID-19 and 20,585 were vaccinated.
Meanwhile, aged care and disability workers in Victoria will be able to jump the queue at 10 vaccination centres across the state from Wednesday as part of a five-day jab blitz.
Express lanes exclusively for aged care and disability staff will open from 9am to 4pm, with workers needing to show proof of employment.
It follows three positive COVID-19 cases linked to Arcare Maidstone aged care facility, which have exposed gaps in private aged care vaccinations among workers and residents.