Victoria has recorded 450 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths as hundreds of anti-maskers vow to attend a rally this weekend.
The figure announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday marks a dramatic decrease from the record 725 cases on Wednesday.
Mr Andrews said seven of the 11 deaths are linked to aged care.
The dead include a woman in her 50s, two men in their 70s, six people in their 80s as well as two women in their 90s.
The embattled premier added 607 Victorians are in hospital with the virus and 41 of them are receiving intensive care.
He said 196 fines have been issued in the last 24 hours for COVID-19 breaches – with 51 for not wearing a mask and 43 for breaching curfew.
Two men have already been arrested in relation to the so-called ‘freedom rally’ which is planned to take place on the steps of Parliament on Sunday.
Signage for stage four lockdown restrictions, implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, is seen in Melbourne
Education minister James Merlino also announced on Friday all Victorian students studying for their VCE will be individually assessed for any adverse impacts from COVID-19 – which will then be reflected in their ATAR score.
‘This is quite an extraordinary change. So every single student will be individually assessed,’ he said.
‘We’ll look at things such as school closures, we’ll look at things such as long absences.
‘We’ll look at things, for example, such as significant increase in family responsibilities as a result of COVID-19 and we’ll of course consider the mental health and wellbeing of students during this period.’
Premier Andrews meanwhile revealed health officials in the state were door-knocking every single confirmed COVID-19 case.
He said 1,000 of the 1,150 cases visited on Thursday were isolating within the rules, while the 150 who were not have been referred to Victoria Police.
The scheduled protest for Sunday would be in breach of the Chief Health Officer’s directions which bans gatherings of more than two people in public places.
The arrests of the men, both aged 41, came after police searched two homes in Mooroolbark and Chirnside Park on Thursday.
A worker wearing a face mask and protective clothing attends to members of the public at a pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic
A 41-year-old male from Mooroolbark was charged with incitement. He was bailed and is due to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in January next year.
A 41-year-old male from Chirnside Park was also arrested but was released with intent to summons. He is expected to be charged on Friday with the same offences.
More than 400 people have expressed interest in attending the protest but police have warned they will be dishing out $1652 fines and making arrests.
‘This selfish behaviour will absolutely not be tolerated,’ Victoria Police said.
‘Be assured Victoria Police will be responding and will take appropriate action.
The Flinders and Swanston Street intersection, which is usually filled with thousands of commuters, was almost empty on Thursday
‘There will be a highly visible presence in and around the city to ensure the community is complying with stage four restrictions.’
Police have issued 196 fines in the past 24 hours for breaching the Chief Health Officer directions.
There were 51 fines dished out for failing to wear a face mask, 11 fines came from vehicle checkpoints and 43 for curfew breaches.
Melbourne has been under a police enforceable curfew since Sunday.
Melburnians can only leave their homes between 5am and 8pm for work, care-giving, medical reasons or on compassionate grounds.
A Melburnian in a face mask walks in front of closed Luna Park in St Kilda during Melbourne’s lockdown (pictured on Wednesday)
Melbourne is now enduring the country’s most restrictive virus-control measures (Pictured: Police officers and soldiers patrol a popular running track in Melbourne)
The city’s 4.9million residents have also been banned from travelling more than 5km from home to do their shopping – and only one person from each household can leave at any time.
Melburnians allowed to work on-site now have to show a permit or official work ID if they are by stopped police to prove they can leave their homes, or face fines of up to $99,123 for businesses and up to $19,826 for individuals.
Since the Stage 4 restrictions were brought into Melbourne by the Victorian government on Sunday, there’s been rising confusion about who can and cannot leave home for work in metropolitan Melbourne.
The government had promised to provide more details ahead of the restrictions coming into effect from Thursday but business groups say it came very late in night, leaving business scrambling to make adjustments.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said nothing was made available by the Department of Health and Human Services until after 11pm Wednesday – 59 minutes before Stage 3 restrictions came into effect across the entire state.
A police car is pictured parked outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne on Thursday morning
Victoria has confirmed eight more deaths from coronavirus as Melbourne suffers its fourth day of stage-four lockdown. Pictured: Commuters on Thursday
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos tweeted a public link to the updated guidelines at 1am Thursday.
‘It’s still a bit of a disaster,’ Mr Willox told Nine’s Today show on Thursday.
‘We’re now on the first morning of the new lockdown, and businesses still aren’t clear on what they can and can’t do.
Mr Willox said businesses were ‘flying blind’, particularly on issues like warehouses, noting that ‘reducing numbers of staff in warehouses would impact on food supplies, among many other things’, he told ABC radio.
Retailers across the city will largely be closed to customers and construction and manufacturing is also being scaled back to help slow the virus spread. Workers in meat processing and abattoirs would be reduced amid the changes to businesses.
Premier Daniel Andrews moved forward with the changes despite pleas from businesses to delay shutting down much of the state’s economy.
‘I don’t think any business will be happy with the decisions that have had to be made,’ he said on Thursday.
Victoria has reported 471 new cases of coronavirus. Pictured: A cyclist in Albert Park, Melbourne on Wednesday
‘I’m not happy to make these decisions of the but sadly we don’t have the luxury of finding things, of that being the ultimate guide.
‘The guide here has gotta be to drive down the amount of movement to then drive down the number of cases.’
‘I’m not for a moment saying businesses are happy about this. They’re not, I’m not, workers are not. This is not the position we wanted to find ourselves in.’
The Morrison government has raised fears the reduction in warehouse and distribution capacity could sap supply in other parts of Australia.
But Mr Andrews is adamant he has struck a delicate balance as the state enters the country’s harshest lockdown.
‘A lot of work has gone into driving down staff levels but, at the same time, protecting the amount of product that will be on supermarket shelves,’ he said.
‘That’s our aim. That’s what we think we can confidently deliver.’
Business leaders held crisis talks with the state government on Wednesday night over fears the clampdown on warehouses could trigger national food shortages.
In response, supermarket distribution centres and medical warehouses will have an extra two days to comply with restrictions.
From midnight on Sunday they will be forced to reduce capacity by a third.
Harsher restrictions includes an 8pm until 5am curfew and a ban on leaving your home unless for essential reasons (pictured: The Bolte Bridge during the first night of curfew on Sunday)
A lone shopper walks down the usually busy Degraves Street, laneway famous for its coffee, on Wednesday morning (pictured)
Red meat processors will switch to 66 per cent, while abattoirs with 25 or fewer staff will be exempt.
Poultry will only fall to 80 per cent capacity in a bid to avoid birds being destroyed but not processed, which would have sparked significant chicken shortages.
Police and ADF personnel have been seen trudging the streets of Melbourne throughout the state’s deadly second wave of infections, making sure residents are following the public health advice and covering their faces.
Amid the outbreak, regional Victoria has entered Stage 3 restrictions, with residents only able to leave their homes for four reasons: to shop for food and essential items, to provide or receive care, exercise, and work and study if they can’t from home.
What is open in Melbourne Stage 4
Supermarkets, bottle shops, petrol stations, pharmacies, post offices, banks
Retailers working onsite to fulfill online orders
Hardware, building an garden supplies for trade
Specialist stationery for business use
Motor vehicle parts for emergency repairs, mechanics
Locksmiths, laundry and dry cleaners, maternity supplies
Disability and health services and equipment, mobility devices
Farms and commercial fishing
Vets, pounds and animal shelters
Supermarkets will stay open
Construction of critical infrastructure and services to support those projects
Critical repairs to homes where required for emergency or safety
Cafes and restaurants for takeaway
Critical service call centres
Law enforcement and courts for urgent matters
Prisons, facilities for parolees, adult parole board, youth justice facilities
Essential maintenance and manufacturing
What is closed in Melbourne Stage 4
Personal care including hairdressers
Pubs, taverns, bars, brothels and prostitution services, clubs, nightclubs
Food courts, restaurants, cafes, etc
Architectural, engineering and technical services
Travel and tour agencies
Non-emergency call centre operations
Non-urgent elective surgery
Museums, parks and gardens, ski resorts
Places of worship except what is required to stream services or provide soup kitchens and food banks
Manufacturing of non-metallic mineral and fabricated metal products, furniture, wood, textile, leather fur, dressing knitted, clothing and footwear, domestic appliances
All office-based and professional businesses, except those delivering critical services, must work from home
OPERATING BUT LIMITED
Building sites of more than three storeys – 25 per cent of workforce
Less than three storeys- five workers on site at a time only
Meat processing – workers cut by a third
Shopping centres for access to permitted retail only
Public transport, ride share and taxis only to support access to permitted services for permitted workers
Thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing with minimum number of essential participants to operate safely