Victoria's outbreak 'not at peak'

Victoria's latest lockdown means Ballarat will be under the same COVID-19 restrictions as Melbourne.
Victoria's latest lockdown means Ballarat will be under the same COVID-19 restrictions as Melbourne.

A regional Victorian city will be plunged back into lockdown for a week due to a rise in cases, as health authorities warn the state's latest outbreak is yet to reach its peak.

From 11.59pm on Wednesday Ballarat residents will be under the same restrictions as Melbourne, except for the curfew, for seven days after four cases, multiple exposure sites and wastewater detections in the area.

Meanwhile, Shepparton will come out of lockdown, with its restrictions to mirror the rest of the regions from midnight on Wednesday after a local outbreak was brought under control.

Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged the "mixed news" for regional Victoria.

"It's great news for Shepparton, not so great for the people of Ballarat," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"If we allow it to get away in one part of regional Victoria, it becomes a threat and a risk to all of regional Victoria. We simply can't have that happen."

Ballarat residents will have to abide by stay-at-home orders with only five reasons to leave home, visitors at homes will be banned and a five kilometre travel limit will apply.

COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar said thousands of additional vaccine doses will be sent to Ballarat in the coming days.

He said the council, local health services, police, public health teams and the housing department will meet on Wednesday afternoon, with a vaccination drive and extra testing to be set up in the area.

It comes after Victoria recorded 423 new coronavirus cases and two deaths on Wednesday, as the number of total active infections climbed above 4000.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, had not yet reached peak case numbers.

"The modelling and everything we know in relation to our current vaccination coverage would suggest that cases will continue to increase," he said.

He said while the state's outbreak "seems to have stabilised" in recent days, "the risk of getting to 1000 is real".

"So we have to press on with vaccinations at the fastest possible rate for that reason alone," Mr Sutton said.

Two new deaths have been reported, including Martin Blight, a call centre worker from Whittlesea, and a Wyndham man in his 70s, bringing the toll from the current outbreak to eight.

Mr Blight, 46, who worked at Serco in Mill Park and became infected with the virus after a workplace outbreak, died in hospital on Monday just two days before he was due to be vaccinated.

The premier said Mr Blight was "an otherwise healthy person" and warned if the state opened up too soon "there will be hundreds and hundreds of stories just like his".

Meanwhile, Melburnians may soon be given more freedoms with an extra hour of exercise and an expanded travel limit on the table once 70 per cent of those eligible have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

The state government's roadmap out of lockdown will be released on Sunday.

Mr Andrews said the 70 per cent target could be reached on Thursday and some rules "might" be relaxed tomorrow night.

"We're not there yet, today is not tomorrow," he said.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has criticised the government for "stringing the community along for another week" and called for an end to the 9pm to 5am curfew, outdoor gatherings, and the return of Year 11 and 12 students.

In the 24 hours to Wednesday, 54,649 tests were processed and 41,856 Victorians received a vaccine dose at a state-run hub, with the number of active cases in the state now 4038.

Australian Associated Press