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Victoria’s regions wake to greater freedoms as train driver tests positive to COVID-19

More than a million regional Victorians are waking to more freedoms as lockdown lifts for all areas outside Melbourne except Shepparton, but a number of restrictions remain.

People in the regions can now travel as far as they want from their homes after the stay-at-home order and five-kilometre travel limit ended at midnight on Thursday.

It comes after a regional train driver tested positive for COVID-19 since working with a trainee and visiting both the Traralgon and Southern Cross depots.

The V/Line driver, who caught the virus from his partner, worked all of last weekend, Monday and Tuesday but was asymptomatic at the time.

There has not been any impact to train services and both Southern Cross and Traralgon stations are being deep cleaned.

“We are closely monitoring staff availability and we are working hard to minimise any impact to services,” a V/Line spokesman said.

While businesses can now reopen in regional Victoria, a number of strict rules applying to the hospitality industry make it unviable for many venues to open.

Retail businesses have been given a density limit of one person per four square metres, but hospitality venues are allowed a maximum of 10 people seated inside and 20 outside.

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

Also coming into effect on Friday is a relief for some Victorians who have been stuck living in a NSW local government border area.

Victorians who have resided in those areas for at least 14 days, from Wednesday 25 August to Wednesday 8 September, will be able to apply for a new permit exemption category to come home.

Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews says detailed modelling from the Burnett Institute will be released in the next week forecasting 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.

Under the health department’s latest projections, Victoria will reach a total of 18,000 active cases by October 16, which is about 10 times the current rate of infection.

Of those projected cases, 800 will need hospital treatment, including 250 who will require an intensive care bed.

There are about 400 staffed and available intensive care beds available in Victoria daily.

Melbourne and Shepparton remain under lockdown, after the state recorded 324 new locally acquired cases on Thursday with 195 of those located in Melbourne’s north.

The outbreak in the northern suburbs has led to calls from GPs, pharmacists and community leaders for a Pfizer vaccine blitz in the area, at more culturally appropriate sites.