Restrictions could be eased significantly in Ballarat and regional Victoria by the middle of next week if no new mystery cases are recorded, Premier Daniel Andrews says.
On Sunday the Premier again flagged the possibility of the regions moving to Step three, which will allow outdoor seating at venues, travel in the regions and five visitors in the home but he said this step was still dependent on the the evolution of the case numbers.
No new coronavirus cases have been recorded in regional Victoria since Friday's report and the rolling 14 day average dropped further to 4.1 cases.
The Premier said on Sunday a case in Horsham, contracted in Melbourne, would not affect the regional Victoria figures.
"Regional Victoria is so close. Just a few days and they will potentially be able to take not just one but two of those steps and be essentially open," Mr Andrews said.
There are currently 58 active coronavirus cases in regional Victoria.
Mr Andrews said he was 'very pleased' to hear original reports of a positive case in Echuca on Friday was a false positive and later tested negative.
He said this meant regional Victoria remained on track to take not one, but two steps by the middle of next week.
"People can be hopeful and confident and positive we will be able to take those steps," Mr Andrews said.
"The strategy is working. We are grateful to every single Victorian who is doing important work to stay the course, defeat this second wave, then open up and stay open."
The current 14-day average of new cases in regional Victoria is 4.3, below the threshold to move to step three of less than an average of five new cases for a 14 day period.
There must also be zero new cases with an unknown source for a 14 day period for the restrictions to be eased.
A move to step three potentially mid-next week would mean there would be no restrictions on reasons for people to leave home, the resumption of hospitality businesses with outdoor seating and the allowance of travel to other regional areas, among a number of other changes.
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Mr Andrews and Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said an announcement on regional Victoria moving to step three could not be made until they could ensure there were no new mystery cases in the next few days.
Professor Sutton said he expected the daily average of new regional Victorian cases would not increase above five again.
"Everything regional Victoria has achieved is of their own doing, by following the rules and putting up with significant restrictions has got them to the point they are now with a positive path ahead," he said.
"There are lessons there for us here in Melbourne that you can go from 512 active cases in regional Victoria to numbers in the 50s and be on track to have no new cases in the coming fortnight."
Mr Andrews continued to rule out the possibility of creating different restrictions for areas of regional Victoria that have had no coronavirus cases for months, given the entirety of regional Victoria was so close to moving to step three.
Regional Victoria will move to step two on Monday, meaning up to five people from two households can meet outdoors and people living alone can have one nominated visitor to the home.
Outdoor playgrounds and outdoor pools will also be allowed to open on Monday.
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