Melbourne in 'ring of steel' as cases fall

Victoria has recorded 42 new cases of coronavirus and eight more deaths, all related to aged care.
Victoria has recorded 42 new cases of coronavirus and eight more deaths, all related to aged care.

Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown pain is unlikely to ease ahead of schedule, despite the city reaching a key roadmap milestone.

Instead restrictions will tighten as a hefty new fine is introduced to help Victoria Police enforce the so-called "ring of steel" around the city.

The $4957 penalty is being introduced for any Melbourne residents who try to head out to regional Victoria without a lawful excuse.

Regional Victoria restrictions will ease from midnight and police are also bolstering road checkpoints out of Melbourne, meaning lengthy traffic delays.

Victoria Police announced the new fine on Wednesday as Melbourne's 14-day new case average dipped below 50, to 49.6.

That average must be between 30-50 for some Melbourne restrictions to be eased as planned on September 28.

"The fact that we are in the 30-to-50 band should be a point of pride, absolutely," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"But we are making an assessment, not today ... about being in the 30 to 50 band and if we are, not just for a day, but for a decent period, for a significant period, then we'll be able to make that call.

He added factors behind each case had to be considered when weighing up whether to ease restrictions.

Mr Andrews has also acknowledged the tightening of road checkpoints will mean traffic snarls.

"Whether you want to call it a ring of steel or a border ... the key thing is simple - only those who have to go to regional Victoria and have a lawful reason to go to regional Victoria can go to regional Victoria," he said.

Meanwhile the state's coronavirus respite has been brief, with eight deaths taking the state toll to 737 and the national figure to 824.

Tuesday was the first day Victoria had been fatality-free in its second wave since July 13.

Among the latest fatalities, four women and two men were in their 80s and two men were in their 90s. All are aged care-related.

But there was more good news, with the premier announcing that elective surgery would start to resume.

Elective surgery had been largely on hold because of the state's second wave.

Regional Victoria will go up to 75 per cent of usual surgeries from Wednesday and Melbourne is likely to increase to 75 per cent from September 28.

"We plan to have approximately 18,750 additional elective surgeries across private and public hospitals in October, and an extra 10,500 surgeries across those settings in November," the premier said.

Victoria's total active cases also hit a milestone, dropping below 1000 to 991.

"That is very, very significant - it's been a long time since we've had less than 1000 active cases," Mr Andrews said.

Regional Victoria's new case average also fell again to 3.5.

Victoria had 42 new cases on Wednesday, the same as Tuesday.

The next step for regional Victoria means pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve people outside with strict density quotas, while outdoor gathering limits will be upped to 10.

Regional Victorians will also be able to leave their homes without restriction and all shops can reopen.

They can also travel through Melbourne to another part of the state.

Australian Associated Press