Government weighs up significant easing of restrictions on Sunday

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Hundreds of police and health inspectors will visit cafes, pubs and other businesses to monitor compliance with COVID-19 rules and fine those not obeying up to $10,000.

Victoria Police, WorkSafe officials and Health Department officers will conduct spot checks at gathering places after the government received reports of businesses disobeying rules on mask wearing and physical distancing.

Health Minister Martin Foley announced the measure on Saturday in the final press conference before the state government announces a lifting of public health restrictions that may go further than forecast.

Daniel Andrews will on Sunday announce which restrictions will be loosened.Credit:Eddie Jim

The 25-kilometre travel limit and the metro-regional border are set to be removed on Sunday and hospitality venues are likely to be allowed to seat 40 people indoors and 70 outdoors.

Gyms are to reopen in metropolitan Melbourne and indoor children's sport is set to resume.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday foreshadowed rule changes that would go beyond those already pencilled in for Sunday, after a stretch of zero-case days that has now extended to eight.

The crisis cabinet of seven key ministers met on Friday and Saturday to discuss Sunday's easing and another relaxation of rules on November 23, which could result in Victoria's restrictions loosening to similar levels as other states.

The cabinet, chaired by Mr Andrews, is considering when it is appropriate for people to switch to wearing masks only in high-risk settings, meaning for example Victorians could be mask-free when walking outside alone. The government is also considering whether to increase the number of people who can visit a home from two plus dependents.

Mr Foley, speaking as the number of active COVID-19 cases in the state dropped from 15 to eight, said: "Victorians should be prepared to keep masks going because they are working."

Health Minister Martin Foley at the Royal Melbourne Hospital on Saturday.Credit:Simon Schluter

Announcing the weekend compliance effort, Mr Foley said the vast majority of businesses were following the rules but those who weren't could be fined. Officials will be monitoring whether businesses, including in regional Victoria, are ensuring physical distancing, recording names of customers and displaying public health signage.

"We need to make sure the enormous sacrifice Victorians have made over the course of the pandemic are sustained, and that means everyone doing the right thing," he said.

"Every business, every workplace, everyone out there in the community has a role to make sure we stay open."

The Health Minister also announced almost $10 million would be spent on measures to boost the mental and physical wellbeing of healthcare workers. A wellbeing centre will be created for healthcare workers and hospitals will upgrade areas where staff rest. Psychological and peer support services will be boosted.

Only one healthcare worker in Victoria is currently infected with COVID-19. It is estimated that 2600 Victorian nurses, doctors and other health staff caught the virus while at work.

An aged care resident tested positive to COVID-19 on Friday. The person previously had COVID-19 and a Health Department expert panel ruled the infection to be a case of "persistent shedding" rather than a new case. The person has been transferred to hospital and will be treated as a positive case as a precautionary measure.

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