A COUPLE of active COVID cases cropping up in regional Victoria are not enough for health authorities to put the brakes on a slight easing to restrictions from Friday.
There were four in the 334 new infections confirmed on Friday - all of which were closely linked to Melbourne.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley praised regional Victorians' sense of caution when he was asked in a Thursday press conference whether it was too early to lift some restrictions, especially given soaring case numbers in Melbourne. This includes 102 new COVID cases in Melbourne's western suburbs, some of which border the Ballarat region.
There is a deeper sense of ownership and engagement in regional communities with the health services.Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley
"There is a deeper sense of ownership and engagement in regional communities with the health services," Minister Foley said. "We see it in the higher levels of vaccinations, we are confident on the public health advice, that very measured changes that will come to light, are proportionate.
"It's up to all of us, especially our regional communities to safeguard that by following those rules, making sure that only permitted workers and for permitted reasons travel from metropolitan Melbourne to the regions and vice-versa."
Committee for Ballarat chairman Damian Ross welcomed the changes, even though some sectors benefit more than others.
Mr Ross said the shift in restrictions was a reward for good work in regional Victoria, with most residents doing the right things to stay safe. In turn, this offered regional Victoria a chance to push for more restrictions to be safely lifted.
We've got to reconnect again as a community an this is a way of coming together slowly.Committee for Ballarat chairman Damian Ross
"This gives us hope for a pathway out of lockdowns and wouldn't it be a great celebration for us to be properly together again when we can," Mr Ross said. "We've got to reconnect again as a community an this is a way of coming together slowly."
Mr Ross also urged Ballarat people to support the region's tourism attractions until they had the chance for greater capacity limits going forward.
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This comes as Sovereign Hill is confirmed to re-open to regional tourists from September 18, the first official day of school holidays. All metropolitan bookings have been cancelled until at least September 23.
Sovereign Hill Sara Quon said teams looked forward to getting back in action.
"Regional visitors have been incredibly supportive of Sovereign Hill throughout the past 18 months and we thank them for truly living the 'discover your own backyard' philosophy," Ms Quon said. "Our thoughts continue to be with our metro supporters who are unable to visit...We will continue to produce online content and education experiences to help engage with our stories remotely."
Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett told The Courier this week the slow ease in restrictions was a chance to buy time to keep stepping up vaccinations while keeping some control and safety in re-opening.
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