Victoria's five-day lockdown set to end on time
The Herald Sun can reveal senior Andrews government ministers met on Tuesday evening to finalise plans to end the lockdown on Thursday, barring any mystery cases emerging overnight.
The ministers will meet again at 8am on Wednesday, when they are expected to rubberstamp the plan to reopen the state.
The Herald Sun understands this will involve a return to restrictions similar to the regime in place pre-lockdown, but with masks still required indoors and some slightly tougher rules including limits on household gatherings.
Schools are expected to reopen after students were forced to spend three days at home.
And crowds will be allowed to return to Melbourne Park in time for the final matches of the Australian Open, although several sources indicated on Tuesday night that total numbers were likely to be tightened.
Daniel Andrews said earlier on Tuesday that the government was "well placed to be able to make changes".
"I'm not in a position to definitively commit to that, because these next 24 hours will, of course, be crucial," the Premier said.
"You'd always prefer no new cases, but it is fair to say … this strategy is working."
"We will get these rules off as quickly and safely as we possibly can."
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Paul Guerra urged the government to "run out" of lockdown.
"We can't crawl out of this," he said. "The short sharp circuit breaker has worked but businesses across the state are on their knees, they need the certainty that they can get going in the recovery."
Gary Saini, owner of Malvern's Caffe La Via, said he hoped the lockdown was lifted, adding he could not afford to take a further hit to the $100,000 of stock he had been forced to throw out since the pandemic began.
"It cannot keep happening like this," he said.
Popular CBD cafe The Hardware Société announced it would close permanently, saying the third lockdown had been "the last straw".
"It is with a heavy heart we have decided to close our Hardware Street venue indefinitely," co-owner Di Keser said, adding the cafe's sales on Monday came to $391 - about $10,000 less in takings than what she described as an "ordinary" Monday.
Two new infections emerged on Tuesday, both connected to a family function in Coburg on February 6 and already in isolation as close contacts of existing cases. They had previously tested negative, before developing symptoms, prompting authorities to re-test all those at the event.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien slammed the Premier for leaving school kids and businesses waiting on whether the state would emerge from lockdown.
"Stringing us along for another 24 hours, another day it's really not good enough." he said.
Testing commander Jeroen Weimar said authorities were "not excessively concerned" about Tuesday's new cases as they were close contacts already in isolation.
Almost 60 close contacts linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak were isolating, along with 499 hotel staff and residents.
Another 1189 primary close contacts linked to various exposure sites and 1991 travellers who passed through terminal 4 - where an infected Brunetti staffer worked - are also isolating.
EXPERTS HAVE THEIR SAY ON VIC LOCKDOWN
Top epidemiologists have backed a reopening, saying the majority of cases were likely to have already been identified.
Deakin University Chair of Epidemiology, Professor Catherine Bennett, said low case numbers in recent days should give the government confidence "they have contained it".
She said it had been about 10 days since the last spreading event and, with symptoms likely to show within five days, most cases should have already been reported.
"We've had two spreading events - one within the (Holiday Inn) hotel and one at this private family function (in Coburg)," Prof Bennett said.
"Everything that we have seen to date has been linked to one of those. That's really good.
"The chance of seeing cases outside these inner rings is diminishing by the day."
Originally published as Reprieve for Victorians with five-day lockdown to end on time