A $44 million package has been unveiled to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD as workers and visitors return after the city’s sixth lockdown.
Victoria recorded 1173 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths on Sunday, as the state forges ahead with reopening and recovery.
The state government and City of Melbourne have agreed to jointly fund a number of targeted initiatives to bring the city centre back to life, including a $5 million midweek dining rebate scheme.
From November 15, diners will be able to reclaim 30 per cent off their food and beverage bills – up to $150 – between Monday and Thursday each week.
More than 200,000 rebates will be up for grabs at restaurants, cafes and bars in the CBD, Carlton’s Lygon Street, North Melbourne, Southbank, South Wharf and Docklands.
The package also includes $10.4 million to help businesses trade outdoors and at night, $15.7 million to boost the city’s events calender, $14 million to revitalise public areas and $3.6 million to provide an enhanced business concierge service.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the package, the first part of a $200 million revitalisation fund, was designed to help Melbourne recapture its vibrant food, wine and coffee culture.
“This is about getting people back to the CBD,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters at Italian restaurant Becco in Melbourne’s CBD.
“Having people not only visiting but spending, and that’s all about jobs. It’s all about recovering what we lost.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said midweek foot traffic in the CBD remains down 50 per cent but the dining rebates would spur on a rebound.
“The first time we did it, people came back three times faster than previous bounce-backs,” she said.
The city’s annual Christmas festivities will also begin from Friday, two weeks earlier than usual, to lure more shoppers back.
It comes as the health department confirmed Victoria is now managing 16,413 active COVID-19 cases.
There are 568 Victorians in hospital, of whom 96 are in intensive care including 63 on ventilators. The numbers are slightly down from Saturday.
Mr Andrews said about 95 per cent of those in ICU are not fully vaccinated.
Another 65,410 tests were processed on Friday and 15,058 vaccines administered at state-run hubs.
About 83 per cent of people aged over 12 are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, organisers of protests against vaccine mandates and proposed pandemic laws have vowed to return to the streets of Melbourne every week until their demands are met.
A crowd of protesters marched through the CBD on Saturday, looking to “kill the bill” heading for the upper house that would give the Victorian government specific pandemic powers as an alternative to state of emergency declarations that need to be renewed every four weeks.
The bill needs the support of three of the 11 crossbenchers to pass, which would give the premier the power to declare a pandemic and extend emergency conditions for three months at a time, for as long as considered necessary.
Mr Andrews suggested there were a “wide range of views” among Saturday’s protesters but their efforts would be futile.
“Protesting doesn’t work,” he said.
“The bill that’s in the parliament … builds on what happens in New Zealand, builds on what happens in NSW and is absolutely consistent with the powers that various people within government have held.”