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Victoria has 1005 dead and 2232 new cases - its lockdown ends tonight

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More than 1000 Victorians have died from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the grim milestone coinciding with Melbourne’s last day under its sixth lockdown.

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Another 12 deaths and 2232 locally acquired cases were recorded on Thursday. The fatalities bring the toll from the latest outbreak to 187, with 1005 having died since the pandemic began.

Thursday’s daily local case number is the state’s second highest of the pandemic and breaks a five-day streak of fewer than 2000 infections.

After three consecutive days of fewer than 300 cases, NSW recorded  372 new local COVID cases and one death recorded in the 24-hours to 8pm on Wednesday – a jump of 89 on the previous day.

Authorities have said they expect case numbers to increase within weeks as restrictions ease.

Victoria has officially passed its 70 per cent full vaccination target, a key reopening target in the state’s roadmap.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday confirmed 70.51 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have now received both doses.

“The longest road has been journeyed in Victoria and that long road really starts to open up tonight,” he told the Seven Network.

The state government had already announced Melbourne would emerge from lockdown at 11.59pm on Thursday, five days earlier than previously planned.

The vaccination landmark was a source of pride for Premier Daniel Andrews.

“Because of everything Victorians have done, tomorrow we can start getting back to the things we love,” he tweeted.

When stay-at-home orders lift, Melburnians will have endured 77 full days in their current lockdown, and 263 total days locked down since the beginning of the pandemic – a record for any city across the globe.

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 staff in businesses given the green light to operate to fully vaccinated Victorians must also be doubled-dosed to return to work.

Following the hospitality sector voicing confusion over mandate rules, the Department of Health has clarified the reopening of businesses such as pubs and restaurants to fully vaccinated attendees includes workers as well as patrons.

“The option of increased capacity limits will only apply if everyone present is fully vaccinated (or has a valid medical exemption),” a new health direction reads.

“This means if your staff are not fully vaccinated, you may not be able to open or to apply the eased capacity limits offered in the roadmap. Encourage your workers to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Three overseas-acquired cases were also detected in hotel quarantine, lifting active infections in the state to 22,598.

There were 79,544 tests processed and 37,824 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at state-run hubs on Wednesday.

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