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COVID-safe crowds back for Melbourne Cup

Victorians will breath a collective sigh of relief as the race that stops the nation starts the state’s event season.

After running the race with empty stands in 2020, the Victorian Racing Commission will welcome punters back for the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

The crowd at Flemington Racecourse may be smaller than usual, at a COVID-19-safe limit of 10,000 people, but the excitement in the air will be thick with hope and anticipation of a return to normality.

VRC chairman Neil Wilson said he was thankful people would return to the track following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions after last year’s carnival went ahead without crowds.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to welcome over 35,000 people attending Cup week this year in a COVID-19 environment,” he said.

Those unable to get tickets to the race will be able to celebrate the colour of the Cup at home, with up to 10 visitors.

It comes as Melbourne and Victoria’s regions reunited after coronavirus restrictions eased at 6pm on Friday, ahead of the state hitting its 80 per cent full vaccination target at the weekend.

The border between Melbourne and the regions has now come down, masks no longer need to be worn outdoors, and capacity limits increased for restaurants, pubs and cafes, and indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail reopened to fully vaccinated patrons.

Families were reunited and tears shed at Melbourne Airport as Victoria reopened to quarantine-free travel on Monday for arrivals fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Fully vaccinated international arrivals touching down in Victoria no longer have to spend 14 days in quarantine, as long as they provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure and another 24 hours after arrival.

There were 1471 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and four deaths announced on Monday

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