Melbourne waves goodbye to city lockdowns

Premier Daniel Andrews was among Melburnians who enjoyed a social outing as lockdown lifted.
Premier Daniel Andrews was among Melburnians who enjoyed a social outing as lockdown lifted.

Melburnians can wave goodbye to citywide lockdowns forever, with residents assured the Victorian capital has endured its last.

As the city emerged from its sixth lockdown on Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews declared blanket stay-at-home orders were a thing of the past.

"We're not having statewide lockdowns, we're not having citywide lockdowns," he told reporters.

"People have gone and done what we've asked them to do, and now we're delivering what we said we'd do."

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton expects daily cases to hit record highs as Melbourne reopens, and urged people to follow check-in and mask rules.

While there are more than 23,000 active cases across the state, only 784 Victorians are in hospital battling COVID-19 including 145 in intensive care.

Some 88 per cent of those in hospital are not fully vaccinated, while 94 per cent of ICU patients are not double-dosed.

Mr Andrews said further boosting vaccination rates would be critical to protecting the health system.

"Those numbers tell you the story. They tell you the only story you need to know: if you get vaccinated, you will not finish up in hospital," he said.

Victoria is poised to pass its 80 per cent full vaccination target next weekend, the premier confirmed, prompting further easing of restrictions.

"We will be out quite soon to clarify what we hope can happen at the end of next week," Mr Andrews said.

It comes as Melburnians taste freedom for the first time in months.

When the clock struck midnight, loud cheering and applause broke out from apartment buildings and car horns were heard honking in the streets.

City dwellers didn't waste any time, dropping into pubs and restaurants to celebrate with a late-night drink or feed.

Chapelli's 24-hour cafe opened to diners right away, with hundreds since coming through its doors.

"It was madness. It was literally like New Year's Eve on crack. People were everywhere. We had queues going down the street," manager Lisa James told AAP.

"We had a couple of drunk people walk past and start taking food off the table."

Staffing is another issue for the venue and wasn't helped by a last-minute change requiring all workers to be fully vaccinated.

Ms James said the government needed to be clearer with businesses about their legal responsibility in turning away unvaccinated patrons.

"I feel like there's a lot of information but nothing's really being said," she said.

At hairdresser Joey Scandizzo's South Yarra salon, five lucky customers were given a midnight makeover.

Their phones have been ringing off the hook and the salon is already booked out until December.

"We're just hoping that this is the last lockdown. We can't go through this again," Mr Scandizzo said.

Amie Mita, owner of Skin Essentials beautician in Elwood, said eyebrow shaping has been their most popular service since swinging the doors open.

She hopes mask rules for beauticians are eased in the coming months and businesses are not tasked with checking vaccine passports for too long.

"It's nerve-racking," Ms Mita said.

The premier also shared in the post-lockdown festivities, enjoying a wine with wife Cath as part of a mother's group on Friday morning.

He urged people to be patient as hospitality workers navigate the new "vaccinated economy".

Melbourne's sixth lockdown lasted 77 days and its residents have spent a total of 263 days under stay-at-home orders since March 2020.

Victoria recorded 2189 new COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths on Friday, the highest daily tally of the state's third wave.

Australian Associated Press