THE Premier Daniel Andrews has announced today, Wednesday, September 1, that regional Victoria will be able to open up next week.

However, after “a sobering day” when 120 new cases of COVID-19 were notified in the state on Wednesday, and two additional deaths were announced, the first deaths in the state since October 18 last year, the Premier was only able to announce the easing of two minor restrictions.

These include the opening up of playgrounds from midnight tonight, September 1 and allowing home-based childcare to resume, where at least one person in the home is a permitted worker.

But according to CHO Brett Sutton, going to the playground will not be an excuse for a community meeting. There will be QR code check-ins as mandatory, only one parent to attend, and no removing of facemasks to eat food or drink. Attendance will be strictly controlled, he said.

The Premier also foreshadowed a further easing of restrictions in Melbourne from September 23 when he expects the state to pass 70% of first dose vaccinations.

He also revealed a plan to get all Year 12s vaccinated, through a special program from September 7 to 17, organised by the schools, with the aim of getting Year 12s vaccinated by the time the GAT is held on October 5.

But schools will not go back during Term Three.

But the big news today was a decision to open up regional Victoria next week, but only if numbers in regional Victoria stay low.

“Now, In better news, the case numbers in regional Victoria, are very different to that which is occurring in metropolitan Melbourne. We believe, if we just put Shepparton to one side for a moment because there are some localized issues there. We’re working very hard, as hard as we possibly can to support everybody in Shepparton and the Shepparton community, as always has done an amazing, amazing job, a great effort. But if we just put Shepparton to one side for one moment and think about the rest of regional Victoria, we think there will be, we will be able to end the lockdown in the rest of regional Victoria next week.

“Exactly when we’ll confirm as soon as we can. The nature of that ending of the lockdown, so there will be an opening up, but there will be significant restrictions, substantial restrictions on what can occur. And of course, no one other than those who are authorized will be able to go to regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne.

“Today’s not the day to make those announcements that will be done in due course, hopefully, over the next few days we’re able to speak in more detail, and indeed, into early next week, about what things look like in regional Victoria, looking to the future.

“But, with the exception of Shepperton because it might need to be treated differently for a period of time, until we’ve cleared all those cases and then they would be able to rejoin the rest of regional Victoria, we do think we can have some positive news for regional Victoria next week.

“As we’ve always done, as soon as we can provide that information in that detail, we will, but with significant restrictions. It will not be a full opening up, there will not be hundreds of people at the pub, or the restaurant, or the cafe. But there will be activity that is possible, and safe, and that will be in excess of what’s happening in Melbourne because cases are very different, the epidemiology of regional Victoria is very different.”

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was confident that regional Victoria could open up next week.

“On regional Victoria, it is on the right track, and we will be in a position to make more announcements about that this week,” CHO Brett Sutton said.

“Of the seven new cases in regional Victoria today, five were in Shepparton and all were in isolation for the entire infection period.”

The additional cases in regional Victoria are in Seymour (1) and Geelong (1).

He said these restrictions would see the case numbers plateau and stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed.