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Hospitality vax rush as Melbourne prepares to lift lockdown

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Tonight’s lockdown lifting in Melbourne has hospitality workers scrambling to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so they can get back to work.

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Melburnians will emerge from lockdown at 11.59pm on Thursday, five days earlier than planned, as the state is expected to reach its 70 per cent fully-vaccinated target.

Federal government figures show 89.2 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 69.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Under the new rules, people will be able to leave their homes for any reason and travel anywhere within metropolitan Melbourne.

The curfew will be scrapped, home gatherings of up to 10 will be allowed, and hairdressers and hospitality businesses will reopen for the fully vaccinated.

However, in a last-minute change to reopening plans, all hospitality staff must be fully vaccinated to work.

This is despite online health directions stating authorised workers, including those in hospitality, must have had one vaccine dose by October 22 and a second by November 26.

Australian Hotels Association Victoria chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan said the government had “moved the goalposts” on the sector and has asked for a grace period to allow staff time to get vaccinated.

But Victoria’s COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said “there is no wriggle room” on the mandate.

With some pubs in the city to reopen at midnight, staff at hospitality venues will be allowed to go into work after the curfew kicks in at 9pm to get their venues ready, but patrons will need to wait until 11:59pm to leave home.

Melbourne is considered the most locked-down city in the world, having endured a total of 262 days under stay-at-home orders since March 2020.

Victoria recorded 1841 local COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday, taking the toll from the latest outbreak to 175.

The ACT is also due to ease COVID-19 restrictions from midnight Thursday after the territory eclipsed the 80 per cent fully vaccinated threshold this week.

All retail will be allowed to open with density limits of one person per four square metres.

In NSW, the number of new cases diagnosed across NSW remains relatively low, despite the easing of restrictions.

A total of 283 new locally acquired cases and seven deaths were announced on Wednesday.

-with AAP

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