Victoria records 176 local COVID-19 cases as families set for small reprieve

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Victoria has recorded 176 new local coronavirus cases as families get set for a modest reprieve, with playgrounds set to reopen across the state from midnight and babysitters to be allowed back in the home for some school-aged children.

Thursday’s case numbers are the highest recorded in Victoria’s current outbreak of COVID-19, and bring the total number of active cases in the state to 1029.

Rocco, 9, Reggie, 7, and Evie Moesch, 4, are among those excited for playgrounds to reopen at 11.59pm on Thursday. Credit:Joe Armao

Eighty-three of the new cases are linked to current outbreaks, and authorities are investigating the acquisition source for the remaining 93 cases. Thursday’s cases were reported from more than 48,370 COVID-19 tests.

The Health Department did not specify how many of Thursday’s new cases were in isolation while infectious, and said more information would be provided later in the morning.

The figures come ahead of playgrounds reopening across Victoria at 11.59pm on Thursday to children under 12.

Under accompanying new rules, only one parent or carer will be allowed to take their child to the playground, and they cannot remove their masks to eat or drink. They also have to check into the playground with a QR code.

In-home care, like babysitters, is also being extended to school-aged children from 11.59pm on Thursday, but only if both parents are authorised workers.

Still, families are excited about the small freedoms. Corinne Moesch’s three children were among those jumping for joy at the news playgrounds will reopen.

“I’ve been bored out of my mind because I can’t go to the playground,” Ms Moesch’s son, nine-year-old Rocco Crupi, said. “I just love the monkey bars.”

More than 33,700 people received their COVID-19 vaccine doses in Victoria in the past 24 hours. No new cases were recorded in the state’s hotel quarantine.

While families rejoice, businesses ‘shattered’

While families rejoice at Thursday’s changes, though, businesses are “absolutely shattered” by the wider lockdown being extended.

Authorities have flagged announcements about restrictions easing in regional Victoria – expect, perhaps, in Shepparton – could be made as soon as next week.

However, Melbourne will be in lockdown until on or about September 23 – whenever the state reaches the goal of 70 per cent of the population vaccinated with one dose.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is demanding a road map out of lockdown, similar to the plan presented by the government as the state emerged from a long period of restrictions last year.

The chamber’s chief executive, Paul Guerra, who was fiercely critical of the 2020 road map when it was published almost a year ago, said most Victorian businesses faced the reality of being unable to trade for the foreseeable future.

“Victorian businesses are absolutely shattered today,” Mr Guerra said on Wednesday.

“We asked for a plan, a road map, ambition and hope. Instead, we got confirmation that most Victorian businesses will remain unable to trade for the foreseeable future.”

Exposure sites grow

Meantime, exposure sites continue to grow in Victoria, with health authorities identifying nearly 40 after 7pm on Wednesday.

Among these were several tier-1 or close contact sites, including Base Backpackers at St Kilda, an office building at Essendon Fields, a dessert shop at Coolaroo, and Broadmeadows Family Health Care.

The remainder of new exposure sites identified late on Wednesday were tier-2 or casual contact sites.

They included several supermarkets, an apartment complex at Hawthorn, Sunshine Fruit Market, and an Australia Post at Brunswick East.

With Petra Stock

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