Eased Victorian restrictions in balance

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton: let's not pretend marching will deliver freedom.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton: let's not pretend marching will deliver freedom.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says Victoria is "on track" for a planned easing of COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday but it's not something authorities can yet confirm.

The state recorded 12 new locally acquired cases on Saturday. Ten of them were in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period and all are linked to current outbreaks.

The numbers continue an encouraging downward trend in new diagnoses after 14 cases were reported on Friday and 26 on Thursday.

Prof Sutton introduced a new travel designation for NSW late on Friday, making the whole state an "extreme risk zone" backdated to July 9.

This makes it difficult for Victorians in NSW to come home unless they get a rare exemption or have a Specified Worker Permit.

"It's very strict in terms of the movement of people across the border," he said.

Asked on Saturday whether Victoria could expect an easing of its own restrictions on Tuesday, as scheduled, Prof Sutton said the signs were positive but he declined to commit to it.

Health Minister Martin Foley insists the risk designation of NSW is a natural progression of attempts to protect Victoria and not to do with Premier Daniel Andrews' call for a "ring of steel" blockade around Sydney.

He also moved on Saturday to hose down the idea of tensions with NSW over a lack of willingness to redirect vaccines to Sydney's virus-ridden suburbs.

Mr Foley said Victoria and other states had "legitimate demands" on scarce vaccines for July and August which had already been allocated to them based on population.

However he welcomed recent reports of spare Pfizer doses in the national stockpile and said he'd be happy for those to be sent to NSW.

Meanwhile an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne was brought to a violent end as police used pepper spray to clear the crowd.

Thousands of protesters of all ages chanted "freedom" as they gathered outside Victoria's Parliament House, with rallies also taking place in Sydney and Brisbane.

"We can all argue the merits or otherwise of various approaches to managing transmission, but let's not pretend that 'marching for freedom' will actually deliver the precious freedom that we all need and desire. end/," Prof Sutton later tweeted.

Victoria administered 19,281 vaccine doses in the 24 hours to Saturday and conducted 39,846 COVID tests.

More than 22,000 Victorians are primary close contacts isolating at home, with about 2500 MCG contacts about to be released from 14 days of confinement.

Australian Associated Press