Victorians are set for their first taste of post-lockdown major events, with crowds to test the state’s COVID-19 vaccination check-in system.
A 5500-strong crowd is expected through the gates of Flemington Racecourse for Derby Day on Saturday, marking the start of the four-day Melbourne Cup carnival.
The entire 2020 Cup carnival, including the “race that stops the nation” on the first Tuesday of November, went without crowds despite the state having already exited its second lockdown.
Later, in the heart of the city, almost 4000 music fans will gather for a concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and soak up performances from Baker Boy, Amyl and the Sniffers, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Other smaller outdoor gigs affiliated with the Play on Victoria series will also be held across regional Victoria at the weekend.
Attendees will need to show proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to get into this weekend’s events.
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.
There were long lines outside stores at Bourke Street Mall and Chadstone shopping centre before doors were thrown open shoppers.
With travel to and from the city no longer banned, tourism-starved regional operators are preparing for a wave of pent-up demand over the unofficial Melbourne Cup long weekend.
Despite wild storms lashing popular tourist destinations including Apollo Bay, the Dandenongs and the Mornington Peninsula, traffic was expected to be heavy out of Melbourne on Friday afternoon.
Victoria, meanwhile, reported 1656 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths on Friday as the state government flagged it would scrap daily coronavirus media conferences.
Saturday will be the last daily briefing, with key information and statistics to be issued through a media release about 11am each day.