Victoria has recorded 41 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the lowest daily tally in more than two months, and nine more deaths.
Monday’s tally marks a significant decrease in daily case numbers after 63 new infections were reported on Sunday.
Australia’s coronavirus death toll is now 762, including 675 people in Victoria.
The new figures come a day after Premier Daniel Andrews announced Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne would be extended by at least two weeks as he delivered a roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions.
Under the plan, Melburnians will be forced to remain in their home until at least the end of September, with most restrictions, including the nightly curfew, to remain in place until at least 26 October.
Business leaders and owners have criticised the ongoing restrictions, warning the plan will result in further job losses.
“Today’s so-called Victorian roadmap to recovery is a document of despair for industry and their employees,” said Innes Willox on Sunday, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, the peak body for employers.
“Rather than providing the hope and optimism required, along with clear and measurable steps for businesses to open up, today’s announcement will only prolong the economic and social pain that all Victorians are feeling.”
While Stage 4 restrictions will remain for an additional two weeks, Mr Andrews announced some changes to take effect from 14 September. These include the curfew being pushed back to 9pm-5am, a doubling of the permitted exercise time to two hours, and a “social bubble” system for people who live alone to nominate one permitted visitor.
“We can’t run out of lockdown … I want a Christmas that is as close to normal as possible and this is the only way,” he said on Sunday.
“Pretending it’s over because we want it to be, that is not something I will do.”
Victorian deputy premier James Merlino said the government is doing all it can to have the economy moving again in a COVID-safe way.
Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said owners are struggling under the weight of costs, including rent, equipment leases, loans and an accumulation of worker entitlements.
“What small businesses are telling us is that they are giving up,” she told Nine’s Today program on Monday.
“For many of them, they are not going to be open until the end of November.”
Mr Merlino said the worst thing the government could do for business was open up and then a few weeks later reimpose restrictions because of a third wave.
“You’ve got to get the (infection) numbers down … and once we do that then we can have a much broader reopening of our economy,” he told ABC radio.
Mr Merlino believes the state’s voters are behind the government’s suppression strategy.
“People are with us and they don’t want to be put at risk,” he said.
“People understand that we need to ease restrictions safely and steadily.”
Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am. During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.
Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative. The full list of restrictions can be found here.
All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.