The government of Victoria has started easing quarantine and travel rules as the state reached a 90% COVID-19 first-dose vaccination target last week. This figure represents eligible residents (aged 16+) who have received at least one dose of immunisation.
"That is quite incredible and that means we are on track to become one of the most highly vaccinated jurisdictions in the world," said Deputy Premier James Merlino.
Because of these milestones, the state is gradually relaxing its own travel restrictions. From 1 November, it will no longer require visitors coming from overseas to self-isolate upon arrival – provided that they have received full immunisation (two doses) and test negative for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, local community rules have also been updated. Fully vaccinated close contacts – who don't reside in the same house as the COVID-19 patient – will now undergo a shorter quarantine period.
"Non-household primary close contacts who are fully vaccinated will only need to quarantine for seven days, instead of 14," the Department of Health announced on Thursday. "To be released, they will need to return negative test results from a test taken on day 6 of their quarantine."
However, primary contacts who do live in the same household and who remain unvaccinated will still need to lockdown for a full two weeks in their residence.
Beware the Thursday spike
Despite early wins on the vaccination front, however, epidemiologists in Victoria continue to see a pattern of spikes – specifically on Thursdays. This can be attributed to increasing social activity on the weekends.
"You are talking about the peaks happening on Thursdays and they do likely reflect things that happen on the weekend," said Nancy Baxter, head of the School of Population and Global Health at Melbourne University.
"That's concerning because it's going to continue to drive the outbreak and likely more so once we relax some restrictions," Baxter told the ABC, adding that the state is yet to see case counts come down.