Victoria records 42 new virus cases
Victoria has recorded another 42 new cases of coronavirus overnight, with eight people succumbing to the deadly disease.
It comes after no deaths were recorded on Tuesday.
Metropolitan Melbourne's 14-day rolling average has now dipped below 50 and is now 49.6.
Promisingly, mystery cases have also dropped slightly, with 81 in the metro region - a decrease of one - and one in regional Victoria.
Metropolitan Melbourne will be able to take its second step out of lockdown from September 28, if the region reaches an average daily case rate of 30 to 50 cases over a 14-day period.
Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to provide an update later on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, more than a million Victorians will be able to travel, go to the pub and visit friends as regional cities and country towns are given the green light to open up.
From 11.59pm on Wednesday, restrictions on regional Victorians will eased to allow them to dine in at restaurants, cafes and pubs, and gather outdoors in groups of up to 10.
Masks will still be mandatory in regional Victoria, but there will be no restriction on leaving home for any reason, and community sport will return for all children.
The number of permitted attendees at weddings and funerals will also increase, and retail and beauty businesses can reopen.
In a boost ahead of the school holidays, intrastate travel will also be allowed, and tourist accommodation in regional Victoria will reopen.
It comes as regional Victoria's 14-day case average dropped to just 3.6 without any mystery infections in that time.
Premier Daniel Andrews will on Wednesday announce beefed-up measures to protect the regions and their near COVID-free status.
"This is a day of hope and optimism. This strategy is working," the Premier said.
"It has worked in regional Victoria. It is working in metropolitan Melbourne."
Beautician Chloe Irving said she was relieved to be reopening her salon, Boutique Beauty by Chloe, in Wendouree, Ballarat.
"I've had 17 missed calls in the past hour and so many emails,'' Ms Irving said soon after the announcement was made.
"It's exciting to be back from Thursday. We thought it was going to be Christmas but this is just so great. We're very impressed.''
Abdel Bennani, general manager at Frangos Hotel in Daylesford, said he was glad to get the entire business back up and running again after the hotel and restaurant was forced to close but the cafe remained open.
Staff were meeting on Tuesday to plan their own road map to recovery.
"We'll work it all out and do what we have to do,'' said Mr Bennani, who also worked at one of the town's other dining destinations, The Lake House.
The doors of the Halls Gap Hotel will be flung open again at 11.30am on Saturday after the enforced closure but with one eye on the weather.
Co-owner Mary-Anne Humphries said she and husband Matt were excited to be opening again but outdoor dining meant the fickle spring weather would be crucial.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Allen Cheng said the opening up of regional Victoria would be used as a "dry run" for what could happen in Melbourne.
"We'll be making the same sort of assessment hopefully in a number of weeks to say that, you know, it's safe for Melbourne to open up," he said.
Mr Andrews said he was determined not to rush Melbourne out of lockdown, but the city's 14-day average of 52.9 meant it was on track to reach the second step of reopening by September 28.
"We're not going to be pressured into doing something that is fundamentally unsafe. We're just not," he said.
Federal Nationals MP Damian Drum, who represents Nicholls in the state's northeast, said he feared people from metropolitan Melbourne would flock to country areas, compromising regional Victoria's success.
He has called for a border-style permit system to come into force, to enforce extra accountability on people leaving Melbourne.
"As we start opening up its going to be a lot more attractive for people from Melbourne to come here," he said.
MP Tania Maxwell, member for Northern Victoria, said stringent checks on people travelling out of hot spot areas needed to be a priority to protect the regions.
But Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Sam Hearn insisted his area should be classed as regional Victoria and allowed to reopen too.
"We need to be on the same footing as all the other areas that have the same characteristics as us," he told 3AW.
"Whether that's the Surf Coast, Bass Coast, Phillip Island, Geelong, the Bellarine. We're the odd one out, really."
ANDREWS WARNS VIRUS FIGHT IS NOT OVER
On Tuesday, Victoria recorded its first day in two months without a death linked to coronavirus, as Melbourne's rolling average of daily cases continues to drop.
Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the news but warned there were still COVID-19 patients who were gravely ill.
"There are many people still who are fighting this virus and it's a very tough fight," he said.
"I can't guarantee that number holds tomorrow, but what we do know is that those numbers have been coming down and that's a direct result of lots of different work and different efforts.
"It's pleasing but I can't pretend there will be no deaths tomorrow. It's not a good thing to get, whether you're frail and aged or healthy and young."
The rolling daily average cases for Melbourne is now 52.9, with this figure now approaching the 30 to 50 case range needed for restrictions to be further eased on September 28.
CAR PARK NIGHT-LIFE PLAN A BID TO BOOST MELBOURNE CBD
Melbourne's empty car parks could drive the city's night-life revival under a plan floated from the peak industry body.
Parking Australia has called on the Andrews government to let multi-level car parks host outdoor culinary, arts and entertainment events, after news outdoor dining would be the first to reopen.
Chief executive Stuart Norman said their members had been hit hard by the pandemic and were looking at alternative "ways to use the available space".
"Car parks could easily be used for outdoor dining - they possess key infrastructure like power (and) the space is highly ventilated," Mr Norman said.
"We think it's a wonderful, COVIDSafe way for people to come in and park, attend an event, eat food and see what they want to see in the arts.
"The possibilities are fairly endless."
Mr Norman said the idea was also safer than the street dining proposal.
Event company The Big Group owner Bruce Keebaugh is on board, envisioning jazz bars and outdoor cinemas.
He said he had started a change.org petition with the hashtag #SaveVicEvents.
"We're asking the government to give us an outdoor density quotient so we can plan," he said.
TRADIES GO HI-TECH TO SPOT FEVER
Hi-tech hard hats and vests will measure the temperature of workers for signs of fever, in a world-first trial to keep construction sites safe from coronavirus.
The study, run by Incolink and Deakin University, will use wearable sensors in safety gear to monitor temperatures across different parts of the body. If the technology detects signs of a fever, it will alert supervisors who can then follow up with testing.
Incolink chief executive Erik Locke said the scheme was the next step in keeping the construction industry running, with 85 per cent of workers tipped to be back on site by the end of the month.
"Even with the biggest program of onsite testing of any industry in the state, so far, we've had seven positive tests onsite, so this is an industry that is doing the right thing and getting results," he said.
"We are looking at every possible innovation and technology solution to keep this industry working, which is critical to keeping the Victorian economy afloat."
Industry Professor Tony Arnel is leading Deakin University's research team for the trial and said personal sensors were even more accurate than infra-red cameras or thermometers.
"Since body temperature fluctuates throughout the day due to several factors and fever can come on at any time, wearable sensors will clearly provide better real-time data," he said.