The Victorian government is scrapping daily COVID-19 press conferences as the state prepares for further restrictions to ease.
Saturday’s COVID-19 media briefing will be the last to occur on a daily basis, with information to instead be issued through press releases at about 11am.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will still face the media for major announcements and developments.
Health officials and Victorian government ministers have been holding COVID-19 press conferences daily since the start of the state’s third wave.
Memorably, Premier Daniel Andrews fronted the cameras for 120 consecutive days during the state’s second wave last year in which more than 800 Victorians died.
It comes as Victoria recorded 1656 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths on Friday, ahead of restrictions easing at 6pm.
At that point, the border between Melbourne and the regions will come down, masks will no longer need to be worn outdoors, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail can reopen for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits will increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Outdoor events including weddings and funerals will be able to host 500 fully vaccinated people, while outdoor community sport can resume.
The rules are relaxing in line with Victoria’s roadmap, with the state set to hit its 80 per cent full vaccination target at the weekend.
Creative Industries Minister Danny Pearson says the changes will bring Melbourne “back to life”.
“Six o’clock tonight is dividend day,” he told reporters from the stage of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, ahead of a concert on Saturday night.
“It’s a time where we can start to get back and recapture some of the things that we’ve been missing so much over these last 19 months.”
With travel from Melbourne no longer banned, tourism-starved regional operators are preparing to be busy for the unofficial Melbourne Cup long weekend.
Bells Beach Brewing co-owner Adam Smith expects his Torquay and Geelong venues to be full and says a group of 30-odd people from Melbourne are making the trip.
“It will almost be like a teary reunion on Saturday when they come in,” he said.
Traffic is expected to be heavy out of Melbourne on Friday afternoon, though police have said they will exercise some discretion if people decide to leave the city before 6pm.
Despite grey skies looming over the city and much of the state, Professor Sutton said Friday was a “very bright day”.
“All of these things are essentially only possible because of the vaccination coverage that we’ve been able to get to,” he said.
“Vaccines have gotten us to this point and they’re going to get us to all the additional opening steps that we’ll get to.”
Prof Sutton said the state was on track to be among the “top five” vaccinated jurisdictions in the world, with 65.5 per cent of all Victorians, which includes children under 12 who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, fully vaccinated.
“That’s a higher vaccination rate than the US, Austria, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Israel,” he said.
He added 78.3 per cent of all Victorians have had at least a single vaccine dose, “overtaking the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Japan just to name a few”.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s wild weather has forced the closure of 30 testing sites and six vaccination clinics, including the Melbourne Showgrounds vaccination hub and Melton and Wyndham Eagle Stadium drive-through sites.