Victoria has passed its 70 per cent full COVID-19 vaccination target on the last day of Melbourne’s long-running sixth lockdown.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed 70.51 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have now received both doses, a key reopening milestone in the state’s roadmap.
The state government had already pledged Melbourne would emerge from lockdown at 11.59pm on Thursday, five days earlier than planned.
“The longest road has been journeyed in Victoria and that long road really starts to open up tonight,” Mr Morrison told Seven Network on Thursday.
“But as always, all states and territories, are coming from a different starting point. They’ll all cautiously find their way back. This is not a big opening in that first step.”
When stay-at-home orders are wound back, Melburnians will have endured 77 full days in their current lockdown and 263 total days since the beginning of the pandemic – a record for any city across the globe.
Under the new rules, people will be able to leave their homes for any reason and travel anywhere within metropolitan Melbourne.
The curfew will be scrapped, home gatherings of up to 10 will be allowed, and hairdressers and hospitality businesses will reopen for the fully vaccinated.
However, in a last-minute change to reopening plans, all hospitality staff must be fully vaccinated to work.
This is despite online health directions stating authorised workers, including those in hospitality, must have had one vaccine dose by 22 October and a second by 26 November.
Australian Hotels Association Victoria chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan said the government had “moved the goalposts” on the sector and has asked for a grace period to allow staff time to get vaccinated.
But Victoria’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said “there is no wriggle room” on the mandate.
With some pubs in the city to reopen at midnight, staff at hospitality venues will be allowed to go into work after the curfew kicks in at 9pm to get their venues ready, but patrons will need to wait until 11:59pm to leave home.
Victoria recorded 1,841 local COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday, taking the toll from the latest outbreak to 175.