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Victoria records 324 new local COVID-19 cases as regions prepare to exit lockdown

Victoria has recorded 324 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases – its highest figure since August 2020 – as those who live in the regions prepare to emerge from lockdown.

The health department on Thursday confirmed 107 cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 217 infections under investigation.

It brings the total number of active COVID-19 cases in the state to 2,166.

The last time Victoria recorded more than 300 cases was on 14 August 2020, when 301 infections were logged.

In the 24 hours to Thursday morning, 54,242 tests were processed and 37,604 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub.

It comes as all of regional Victoria, with the exception of Greater Shepparton, will exit lockdown on Friday, with cafes, restaurants and bars able to fling open their doors with strict patron limits.

About 200 police officers will be sent to patrol the edges of Melbourne and Shepparton to ensure people do not leave locked-down areas.

Booze buses, random checkpoints, roving patrols and number plate recognition technology will be used to catch out rule-breakers, rather than the “ring of steel” approach adopted last year.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent conceded some Melburnians might be tempted to try their luck, but warned they faced a $5,452 fine.

“That’s a huge fine just for heading into the regional areas for a cafe meal, or a restaurant meal or a pub meal. So please don’t,” he told reporters.