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Victoria records 334 COVID-19 cases as lockdown lifts for most regions

Victoria has recorded 334 new locally-acquired COVID-19 cases and one death, as lockdown lifts for most of the state’s regions.

The health department on Friday confirmed 149 cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 185 under investigation.

There were no details on the death, the state’s fourth due to the latest outbreak.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 2,426.

In the 24 hours to Thursday morning, 42,998 tests were processed and 39,027 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub, beating Wednesday’s record of 37,604 jabs.

It comes as all of regional Victoria, with the exception of Greater Shepparton, has exited lockdown, with cafes, restaurants and bars able to open with strict patron limits.

Schools can reopen from Friday for years prep to two, and year 12, but all other students must continue their studies remotely.

From Friday, the government will also allow Victorians who have been stuck on the NSW side of the border since late August to apply for a new permit to return home.

Successful applicants will have to drive home and isolate for 14 days.

Melbourne won’t have any easings from strict lockdown until at least 70 per cent of the eligible population receive their first vaccine dose.

So far, it has only been suggested Melburnians will get an extra hour of outdoor activity and the five-kilometre travel radius will be expanded to 10km when it reaches that target.

There has been no indication of what will be permitted when 70 and 80 per cent of the population is double-vaccinated.

On Thursday, NSW released its plan out of lockdown, which involves retail and hospitality opening to fully-vaccinated people in mid-October.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government was awaiting detailed modelling from the Burnett Institute, which will forecast the Victorian outbreak’s peak and how the healthcare system will respond.

He said there is an “enormous amount of work” being done to prepare the state’s hospitals for a surge in cases.

The majority of the state’s active cases are in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, leading to calls from GPs, pharmacists and community leaders for a Pfizer vaccine blitz in the area, at more culturally appropriate sites.

A V-Line train driver has also tested positive for COVID-19 sparking chaos for regional commuters, given more than 100 other staff have been forced into isolation after being deemed close contacts.