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Melbourne will finally exit lockdown this week after nearly four months

Melbourne will finally exit lockdown this week after nearly four months as Australia's second biggest city today recorded zero new infections or deaths.

The city will exit its coronavirus lockdown under onerous restrictions, authorities announced Monday, as zero cases were reported for the first time since June 8.

Stay-at-home orders for Melbourne's five million residents will be lifted from midnight Tuesday into Wednesday while restaurants, beauty salons and retail stores will be permitted to throw open their doors.

Australia's Victoria state has spent months under tight restrictions after becoming the epicentre of the country's second wave of coronavirus infections

Melbourne and the surrounding Victoria state recorded the first 24-hour period without any new Covid-19 cases since June 8 - before security bungles at quarantine hotels housing returned international travellers sparked a major outbreak in July.

Victoria has seen 20,341 total Covid-19 cases and its coronavirus death toll stands at 817.

Announcing the much-anticipated relaxing of restrictions, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews' voice cracked as he declared it an 'emotional day'.

'This has been a very difficult year. And Victorians have given a lot and I'm proud of every single one of them,' he told reporters in Melbourne.

'With 0 cases and so much testing, we are able to say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian who has stayed the course,' Andrews said.

The zero cases and deaths milestone comes months after Andrews declared a 'state of disaster' to slow the spread after 725 people in the state tested positive for coronavirus in a single day. 

Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured on Monday) has relaxed restrictions for Melbourne, a city of five million

The state premier said Victoria was able to rein in the pandemic because of the public's willingness to ensure hardship.

'I could not be prouder than I am today to lead a state that has showed the courage, the compassion, and the character to get this job done. But it is not yet absolutely finished,' he said.

'We have to be vigilant in the weeks and months ... until a vaccine comes, there is no normal. There is only Covid-normal.' 

Asked if ale-loving Victorians could now 'get on the beers', Andrews said he 'might go a little higher up the shelf', later posting a picture of a bottle of whiskey and two glasses to his social media to celebrate.

Jubilant social media users declared the return to zero cases and deaths 'Donut Day', with the hashtag trending as Twitter users posted selfies with the sweet treats in celebration.

Melbourne in the summer became the epicentre of the country's second coronavirus wave, with new daily cases rising above 700 in August when the rest of Australia was already rolling back restrictions.

Some curbs were already lifted last week, allowing haircuts and golf games to return, but further easing planned for Sunday was delayed by 24 hours to assess thousands of test results after a small outbreak in the city's north.

Andrews said all the tests had returned negative.

'It was worth waiting to be absolutely confident to be sure that our team had their arms around those positive cases and fundamental control of the outbreak -- and that is exactly what these numbers show us,' he said. 

A woman prays on St Kilda Beach in Melbourne as the city begins to reopen after months of coronavirus restrictions

Victoria free at last: What are the changes? 

From Tuesday 27 October, 11.59pm

All retail, bars and restaurants open with 20 indoors and 50 outdoors

Beauty services and tattoo parlours open

Outdoor contact sport for under 18s back on and non-contact sport for adults

Four reasons to leave home removed

25km travel limit remains in place

Melbourne to regional VIC border remains  

Outdoor gatherings up to 10 people

Gatherings can be of more than two households

Weddings increase to 10 attendees, funerals to 20

Church services open with 10 indoors and 20 outdoors 

PT, fitness and dance classes can be held outdoors with up to 10 people 

Number of people at outdoor pools can increase to 50, subject to density limits 

Must work from home if you can

From 8 November

25km travel limit scrapped 

Travel to regional VIC allowed 

Retail, pubs and restaurants allowed 40 people indoors, 70 outdoors

Funerals allowed indoors with 20 and outdoors with 50

Non-contact sport for U18s allowed indoors 

Gyms and indoor fitness will be able to reopen

Holiday accommodation to re-open

Religious gatherings will expand with up 20 people and a faith leader indoors, and 50 outside

Pressure had been mounting for weeks on state authorities to allow the city more freedoms, with a litany of rules remaining in place as they took a cautious approach to reopening despite the falling number of cases.

The rest of Victoria state is already enjoying fewer restrictions, with gyms set to reopen and outdoor live music to resume from Tuesday.

All Victorian students are now back in the classroom, with 163,000 of them from Year 8-10 in Melbourne returning to on-site learning on Monday. 

Restrictions on travel between Melbourne and regional Victoria will be lifted from November 8, with a 25-kilometre (15-mile) travel radius for city residents also set to be removed the same day.

The state remains cut off from the rest of Australia, where regional authorities have largely taken a hyper-vigilant response to Covid-19 such as maintaining internal border restrictions.

Those measures have attracted criticism from some quarters.

Mr Andrews was under pressure from the federal government to open up after it was revealed lockdown was costing 1,200 jobs per day and seeing taxpayers shell out $200million a day in federal economic support. 

On Sunday, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulated the state for the drop in cases, and said Victorians had made 'great progress in reducing the rate of Covid-19 infection.'

'They have played their part and sacrificed much in the pursuit of reaching those targets in the belief restrictions would be eased,' he said.

Morrison also took a partisan swipe at Andrews' centre-left government, claiming Victoria's restrictions had caused '1,000 job losses per day'.

Businesses have broadly welcomed the changes but some say the relaxation does not go far enough, given that restaurants can only have 20 people indoors.

'I don't foresee any more than 50 per cent of our Chapel Street Precinct restaurants and cafes will reopen given the density quotas' said Ms Chrissie Maus, General Manager of the Chapel Street Precinct.

'The fact people can't go to the gym, yoga, or Pilates is just exacerbating the situation with the mental health impact on our community now at a critical stage,' she added. 

Melbourne and surrounding areas have been under tight virus restrictions for months

Overall, Australia has been relatively successful in containing the spread of the coronavirus, with about 27,500 cases and 905 deaths in a population of 25 million. 

The country also maintains strict controls on its international borders to prevent transmission of the virus from overseas, which has left tens of thousands of its own citizens stranded abroad.

Authorities now hope to remove internal travel restrictions, bring more Australians home from overseas, and create 'travel bubbles' with other countries that have curbed the virus -- all while continuing to maintain low case numbers.

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