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‘Two steps’ forward for regional Victoria but Melbourne not so lucky

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Victoria has reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 and seven further deaths, with the latest figures supporting the state’s planned easing of lockdown restrictions.

Sunday’s statistics for the past 24 hours take the state’s death toll to 723 and the national count to 810 since the start of the pandemic.

As parts of Victoria’s move towards eased restrictions, tensions are emerging, including reports of further protest action on Sunday and a dramatic vehicle stop north of Melbourne.

A woman is seen being removed from the driver’s seat of a car by a police officer in footage shared on Facebook on Saturday.

A masked Natalie Bonett refused to get out of her car after a discussion with an officer about a phone charger at Wallan, about 60km north of the city.

The male officer can be heard asking for Ms Bonnett’s name and address.

“The problem is you’re not stating your name to me,” the officer is heard saying.
Ms Bonett again refused to get out of the car.

“I don’t feel safe. You’re armed,” she said.

“You’re safe, don’t you worry about that,” the officer replied.

The footage then shows the officer lean into the vehicle as Ms Bonett protests, before she is dragged from the vehicle as her male companion protests.

“I am shaking, crying and in complete disbelief that I was treated this way,” Ms Bonett wrote of the event, recounting that she was arrested and handcuffed.

Police have been contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, going out for a coffee or meal may soon be permitted for regional Victorians as the government of Premier Daniel Andrews considers jumping “two steps” in easing restrictions.

But Melburnians aren’t so lucky. They will remain in stage four lockdown – with some changes – amid growing calls from the state opposition to wind back the capital city’s restrictions to stage three.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien has called for stage three to be reintroduced in Melbourne this week, while holding onto compulsory mask wearing.

Mr O’Brien said: “It’s time to go to stage 3 restrictions with masks for Melbourne.”

“It’s time to get … all our kids back in the classroom, for the start of term 4. This is important. We’ve got a chance to get some of our lives and livelihoods back.

“That would be a sensible way to get some businesses safely reopened, with COVID-safe work plans. Why keep people out of work unnecessarily?”

From midnight Sunday, Melbourne will be granted some changes including:

*The curfew across metropolitan Melbourne will be eased to 9pm to 5am.

*Restrictions on public gatherings ease: Two people or a household can meet outdoors for two hours maximum.

*If you live alone or are a single parent with all your children under 18 you will be able to have 1 nominated visitor to your home.

But under the premier’s roadmap, stage three would not resume until October 26 and only if average daily cases and mystery cases both fall below five infections for two weeks.

At that point, retail and dine-in venues could reopen and some children return to school.

As regional Victorians get closer to enjoying more of life’s simple pleasures, the Premier said road checkpoints may be bolstered to ensure people did not attempt to escape Melbourne and head to the country.

“It may go to a new level to make sure that only those who absolutely need to be travelling into country Victoria are doing that,” he said.

The Premier said there were further announcements to come about support for regional tourism.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Mr Andrews said progress in the regions offered hope for metropolitan Melbourne.

“It is within our grasps and we will be realistic about how it’s tracking,” Prof Sutton said.

Meanwhile, the strain of lockdown on young Victorians is visible in hospital and mental health helpline statistics when compared to the same period in 2019.

Young people presenting to emergency for intentional self-harm and suicidal ideation is higher than the same period last year by 27 per cent.

Mental health support via telephone has risen by 31 per cent.

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