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Victoria sets new record with 535 COVID-19 cases amid crackdown on anti-lockdown protests

Victoria has recorded 535 new COVID-19 infections and one death as Melbourne braces for an anti-lockdown protest rally.

The latest case count released on Saturday is the highest daily number of the latest outbreak, and comes from 61,622 tests in the latest 24-hour period.

Sixty-two of the infections were linked to known cases, health authorities said.

Victoria has 4,974 active coronavirus cases.

The numbers come as police prepare to embark on their biggest operation in two decades to prevent protesters gathering in breach of public health orders.

The city’s CBD will effectively be turned into a no-go zone for Saturday’s rally, with most public transport to and from the precinct suspended and a “ring of steel” erected around its fringe.

Authorised workers and those with COVID-19 vaccination bookings at two city-based hubs will need to show proof to board limited buses and pass through checkpoints from 8am to 2pm.

The partial public transport shutdown was made at the request of police after 4000 people attended a violent anti-lockdown protest on August 21.

Some 2,000 officers will be deployed during Saturday’s operation, which will involve road checkpoints, barricades and roving patrols.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has labelled it the biggest Victoria Police operation since the 2000 World Economic Forum was held in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Melbourne and Ballarat residents are granted modestly eased COVID-19 restrictions after reaching 70 per cent first dose coverage across Victoria’s eligible population.

Among the changes, people will be able to meet one person from another household for a walk or picnic, outdoor exercise time is doubled and the travel limit expanded to 10km.

Fully vaccinated adults can see five people from two households, plus dependants for a picnic.

The state government is planning to outline a full roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday, tied to double dose vaccination rates and based on Burnet Institute modelling.