Picnics allowed in Vic COVID rule easing

Daniel Andrews has announced the easing of COVID-19 restrictions for Melbourne and Ballarat.
Daniel Andrews has announced the easing of COVID-19 restrictions for Melbourne and Ballarat.

Melburnians will soon be able to gather in small groups outdoors as part of a "modest" easing of COVID-19 restrictions to mark Victoria reaching its 70 per cent first dose vaccination target.

As Victoria recorded 514 new cases on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced small outdoor gatherings will be allowed from Saturday.

Adults who are unvaccinated or have had only one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to meet up with one other person from a different household for a walk or picnic.

Up to five fully vaccinated adults from two households, plus dependents, will be able to socialise.

Other changes that come into effect at 11.59pm on Friday include a doubling of the amount of time allowed outdoors to four hours, the expansion of the travel limit from five kilometres to 10, and the reopening of outdoor gym equipment and skate parks.

Two people will also be permitted to train outdoors with a personal trainer, and real estate inspections can resume by appointment and for vacant homes only.

Recreational sports activities such as golf and tennis are still not allowed under the changes.

"You can't agree to everything. We essentially have prioritised family time, so people being able to connect with another family, another household, outdoors," Mr Andrews told reporters on Thursday.

The premier said police will not be going from park to park to check the vaccination status of those gathering for picnics but he hoped Victorians would "do the right thing".

"There's a degree of good faith in this," he said.

Melbourne's 9pm to 5am nightly curfew will remain in place, with the premier declaring he had not received any advice to repeal the controversial measure.

"The curfew works," he said.

In addition, the government has moved to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for construction workers, and banned them from travelling between Melbourne and the regions for work, following outbreaks at multiple sites.

From 11.59pm on September 23, all construction workers must show evidence to their employer they have had at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Restrictions also eased in regional Victoria - with the exception of Ballarat which entered a week-long lockdown on Thursday and will fall under similar arrangements to Melbourne - with gyms as well as outdoor and indoor pools to reopen.

The government's roadmap out of lockdown, outlining restrictions through to November, will be released on Sunday.

The Australian Medical Association's Victorian branch said it was "reckless" for restrictions to ease until two weeks after 80 per cent of people over 12 are fully vaccinated.

"COVID-19 is putting unprecedented strain on Victoria's healthcare system and now is not the time to open up," Victorian AMA President Dr Roderick McRae said in a statement.

Mr Andrews said the roadmap would be consistent with the national cabinet plan to reopen.

Of Thursday's 514 new infections, only 148 have been linked to known outbreaks.

It is the state's highest daily toll since the peak of the second wave in August 2020.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said 60 per cent of new cases were located in Melbourne's northern suburbs and a quarter were in the west.

It brings the total of active cases in the state to 4370, including 182 battling the virus in hospital.

There are a record 51 Victorians in intensive care, of which 29 are on ventilators to breathe.

Australian Associated Press