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Boost for Melbourne diners follows protest

A $44 million package has been unveiled to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD as workers and visitors return after the city’s sixth lockdown.

The Victorian government and City of Melbourne will jointly fund a number of initiatives to bring the city centre back to life, including a $5 million midweek dining rebate scheme.

It comes as Victoria recorded 1173 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths, a day after protesters celebrated being “superspreaders”.

From November 15, diners will be able to claim 30 per cent off their bills – up to $150 – between Monday and Thursday each week.

The more than 200,000 rebates will be up for grabs at restaurants, cafes and bars in the CBD, Lygon Street, North Melbourne, Southbank, South Wharf and Docklands.

The package also includes $10.4 million to help businesses trade outdoors and at night, $15.7 million to boost the city’s events calender, $14 million to revitalise public areas and $3.6 million to provide an enhanced business concierge service.

“This is about getting people back to the CBD,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters at Italian restaurant Becco in Melbourne’s CBD.

“Having people not only visiting but spending – and that’s all about jobs.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the cash injection was the first tranche of a $200 million fund to revitalise Melbourne.

It comes as the health department on Sunday confirmed the state is now managing 16,413 active COVID-19 cases.

There are 568 Victorians in hospital, of whom 96 are in intensive care including 63 on ventilators. The numbers are slightly down from Saturday.

Another 65,410 tests were processed on Friday and 15,058 vaccines administered at state-run hubs.

About 83 per cent of people aged over 12 are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, organisers of protests against vaccine mandates and proposed pandemic laws have vowed to return to the streets of Melbourne every week until their demands are met.

A crowd of protesters marched through the CBD on Saturday, looking to “kill the bill” heading for the upper house that would give the Victorian government specific pandemic powers as an alternative to state of emergency declarations that need to be renewed every four weeks.

The bill needs the support of three of the 11 crossbenchers to pass and give the premier the power to declare a pandemic and extend emergency conditions for three months at a time for as long as considered necessary.

A woman addressed protesters just after 2pm, saying the Andrews government’s proposed bill is “unlawful” and “needs to be invalidated”.

Shortly after, a man took to the stage and said “thank you my fellow superspreaders”, which was met with applause.

“Tomorrow the hospitals will be full,” he said.

The protesters dispersed after about four hours.

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