Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging Victoria to reopen its economy and social life by Christmas, with the worst-hit state recording no new coronavirus cases or deaths.
The figure is a far cry from the 725 single-day infections and 15 fatalities it registered during the pandemic’s peak in early August.
Premier Dan Andrews on Monday announced the easing of some restrictions from midnight Tuesday, much to the relief of Victorians and the federal government.
Mr Morrison said Victorians deserved thanks for their hard work and sacrifice but it was important to take further steps.
“We look forward to Victoria continuing to make progress on the path to reopening and joining the rest of the country at steps two and three in the national plan,” Mr Morrison said.
“It will be important for the Victorian government to provide even more clarity to Victorians in the coming days and where restrictions do not have a health basis that they are removed quickly.”
Step two of the national plan involves a return to work in offices if and where it suits an employee and employer, occupancy of venues and gatherings with as many as one person per two square metres and free movement between areas with no community transmission of coronavirus.
Step three covers a broader return to the workplace, some density limits for events and large venues, social distancing of 1.5 metres, open interstate travel and international travel partnerships.
The federal Treasury had calculated the Victorian lockdown cost the economy $9 billion during the September quarter or $100 million a day.
The prime minister said he would continue to take advice – alongside the premiers of Victoria, NSW and South Australia – on the removal of hard border restrictions.
Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said a stop and start approach to restrictions was unaffordable.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil said employers had an obligation to have coronavirus-safe plans in place to protect workers.
She said it was right to take it a step at a time and not go backwards from a health perspective.
Meanwhile, visitors from most states and territories can now travel to Tasmania without having to quarantine, with the island state opening its borders for the first time in seven months.
Those arriving from the low-risk jurisdictions of Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, plus New Zealand, no longer have to self-isolate as a precaution.