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More Vic virus deaths as lockdown is extended

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Victoria has announced nine more deaths from coronavirus, as the state comes to grips with an extended stage four lockdown for Melbourne.

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But there was some good news for the state, with new case numbers dropping significantly on Monday to 41.

It is Victoria’s lowest daily case number since June 26.

Monday’s figures come as Victorian small business rails against the government’s roadmap out of lockdown restrictions, with Melbourne under stage-four measures for another fortnight.

A broader state-wide reopening is still months away, but Victorian deputy premier James Merlino said the government is doing all it can to have the economy moving again in a COVID-safe way.

Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said owners are struggling under the weight of costs, including rent, equipment leases, loans and an accumulation of worker entitlements.

“What small businesses are telling us is that they are giving up,” she told Nine’s Today program on Monday.

“For many of them, they are not going to be open until the end of November.”

Merlino said the worst thing the government could do for business was open up and then a few weeks later reimpose restrictions because of a third wave.

“You’ve got to get the (infection) numbers down … and once we do that then we can have a much broader reopening of our economy,” he told ABC radio.

Merlino believes the state’s voters are behind the government’s suppression strategy.

“People are with us and they don’t want to be put at risk,” he said.

“People understand that we need to ease restrictions safely and steadily.”

Melbourne’s stage four restrictions will remain for another fortnight, although from September 14 the nightly curfew will start an hour later at 9pm and run until 5am.

People living alone will also be able to nominate a friend or family member who can visit, while two hours of daily exercise will be allowed, including social interactions such as picnics in parks or reading books at the beach.

The curfew won’t be lifted until October 26, with people able to leave home for non-essential reasons.

The lockdown will only lift on that date if the average number of new cases falls below five and there are fewer than five unknown source cases.

Up to five visitors from a nominated household and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will also be allowed.

“We can’t run out of lockdown … I want a Christmas that is as close to normal as possible and this is the only way,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday.

He added the nominated 14-day average of five cases provided a 97 per cent chance of avoiding having to go back into lockdown.

Victoria’s average daily number of cases during the previous 14 days was about 100.

The last step will come into effect from November 23, if Victoria goes 14 days with no new cases, allowing public gatherings up to 50 people and 20 home visitors at a time.

All remaining restrictions will be removed when Victoria goes 28 days with no new cases, although masks will likely remain compulsory for some time.

But regional Victoria will be able to move to the third step of restrictions “quite soon”.

On Sunday, Victoria recorded 63 new cases and five more deaths, taking the state’s toll to 666 and the national figure to 753.

-AAP

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