THE Premier Daniel Andrews has raised hopes of a further easing of restrictions in regional Victoria.

And the changes could come as early as 10 days from now.

It was at Thursday’s daily COVID-19 briefing that regional Victoria received high praise from the Premier for an “impressive” response to the testing campaign and for doing what’s required to keep the numbers low.

Asked if regional Victorians would be rewarded for their efforts, he said the restrictions would not stay in place longer than necessary.

And regional Vic might not have to wait for Melbourne to catch up.

“This is a really challenging set of circumstances. You want as best as you can, as quick as you can to have an alignment between Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria in terms of the rules, because that’s what will allow you to have more freedom of movement,” Mr Andrews said.

“And I don’t think there’s a there’s a regional tourism business that wouldn’t think that wasn’t a good thing to do. I don’t think that there’s a family in regional Victoria that wants to visit a loved one in Metro Melbourne or vice versa that wouldn’t think that was a good thing to do.

“But if the tail of this thing in Melbourne is more stubborn than we thought, and I’m not saying that it is, but if it were the case, or look at it in a more positive sense, if the performance of regional Victoria is even better than we thought it would be, then there is a case to say we can do more.

“We can change further rules in regional Vic. I’m not announcing that today, but what I’m trying to do now is to reassure regional Victorians that we won’t have you in these rules for a moment longer than you need to be.

“Alignment is important because movement is important, but we also know that movement means virus until you’ve got all of the state at very, very, low levels.

“So, there may be some additional things we can do in regional Victoria, but they’re not for announcement today, and that will only be done on public health advice.

“And that would only be, for instance, if the low virus status of regional Victoria was maintained for another 10 days to two weeks, so that’s where getting tested is so important.”

Mr Andrews said it was impressive that regional Victoria had been able to maintain those low numbers even after 26,000 people had been tested in regional areas over a 14-day period.

“Just yesterday, almost two and a half thousand people getting tested. That’s a very impressive thing. And it does mean that we’ll be able to, particularly with our public health response, keep those regional Victorian numbers low.

“Metro and regional Victoria will have to align at some point. But if there’s more we can do in regional Victoria sooner, then we’re not ruling that out, and in fact we’re looking very closely at that,” Mr Andrews said.

Among the easing that might be considered:

* Public gatherings: Up to 50 people outdoors

* Hospitality: Indoor (group limit of 20 and seated service, cap 50 patrons). Outdoor dining subject to density rules

* Weddings & funerals: Allowed with 50 people

* Entertainment: Indoor and outdoor venues open

* Large events: Treated on an individual basis based.

* Accommodation: Fully open.

* No exercise restrictions: Gyms, dance schools return

Mr Andrews has ruled out going all the way to the ‘Last Step’ changes listed above but would be prepared to go part of the way.

Regional Victoria had 4 active cases on Thursday, October 8, but 3 of those are associated with the Oddfellows Café outbreak at Kilmore which has forced 230 local people into isolation.

There’s only one other cases, a doubtful one at that, according to Mr Andrews, describing it as “we have a high degree of confidence that will be a false positive”.

So, effectively, regional Victoria if COVID-19 free.

Victoria recorded 11 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday with the total number of active cases in Victoria at 203, of which 199 are in Metro Melbourne.

Six of Thursday’s new cases were linked to known outbreaks – three are linked to the Frankston family outbreak, one is linked to the Oddfellows Café, one is linked to the Box Hill Hospital outbreak and one is linked to a complex case. The other five cases remain under investigation.

Of today’s 11 new cases, there are three in Frankston, two in Hobsons Bay and single cases in Boroondara, Brimbank, Melton, Port Phillip, Mildura and Mitchell.

“The Mildura case is not a definite positive, however, it is being treated as a positive at this stage. Re-testing is underway. All public health actions are being undertaken, including managing close contacts.”

There were no new deaths from COVID-19 reported on Thursday. To date, 809 people have died from coronavirus in Victoria.

The average number of cases diagnosed in the last 14 days (24 Sep 2020 – 07 Oct 2020) for metropolitan Melbourne is 9.7 and regional Victoria is 0.4. The rolling daily average case number is calculated by averaging out the number of new cases over the past 14 days.

The total number of cases from an unknown source in the last 14 days (22 Sep 2020 – 05 Oct 2020) is 14 for Metropolitan Melbourne and zero for regional Victoria.

* 17 cases of coronavirus are in hospital, including one in intensive care

* A total of 15,298 test results received.

* Total number of healthcare workers active 25

* There are 50 active cases relating to aged care facilities

* 31 active cases are linked to the Chadstone Shopping Centre outbreak.