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Let's lift the 5km limit
Herald Sun, Melbourne  by Kieran Rooney
10 Oct 2020
General News - Page 13 - 401 words - ID 1345866459 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 1108.00cm2

OUTDOOR dining, bigger public gatherings and an easing of the 5km rule could safely be rolled out from October 19 even if Victoria does not meet its 14-day average, epidemiologists said.

Experts have warned the state is now unlikely to reach an average of five coronavirus cases per day in time, but some restrictions could still be eased.

The warnings came as Victoria recorded 11 new infections on Friday and authorities raced to contain outbreaks in Kilmore and Box Hill.

Professor Nancy Baxter, who leads the Melbourne University's School of Population and Global Health, said the odds were against the state meeting the step three threshold. Numbers would continue to fluctuate now that cases were low, she said.

"Melburnians are extremely good at lockdown . We're at the point where the contact tracing and getting a handle on transmission is what we need to perfect," she said.

Prof Baxter said authorities should allow more low-risk social activity and consider asking contacts of close contacts to self-isolate to jump on outbreaks.

"If people social-distance and wear masks outdoors, there is never zero risk but the risk is much lower," she said.

"I don't know how much sense the 5km rule makes . given the primary source of this is now workplaces and households." Prof Peter Collignon, of the Australian National University's Medical School, said it appeared the 5km movement limit could safely be removed.

"I'm not sure how much extra benefit you get from the 5km rule once you get really low levels," he said.

"It will have some effect but you have to weigh up the economic and social costs." University of Melbourne professorial fellow in epidemiology Tony Blakely said Victorians were set for a "nerveracking" week watching the numbers as children returned to school.

He said his preference was that mystery cases were at 10 per cent of cases, or below 10 in total, by October 19.

"Given our most important neighbouring state (NSW) has fallen off the elimination trail, it's not as justified for us to stay in lockdown and get the numbers really low," he said.

"We cant stay in this type of lockdown with caseloads as they are now." There are 17 Victorians in hospital, but only one is in intensive care. Six of the 11 new cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the latest Kilmore case a casual contact at the Oddfellows Cafe.

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