REGIONAL Victoria's "amazing job" at containing the spread of COVID-19 has been recognised by a fast-tracked easing of restrictions from midnight Wednesday.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the move to the third of four steps before COVID normal will allow travel across regional areas, tourist accommodation to open, hospitality outlets to return, sport to resume and increase the number of people permitted to attend social gatherings.
All, however, will come with safety restrictions or limitations.
The four reasons to leave home have also been removed after regional Victoria reached an average of just 3.6 new daily cases over a 14-day period on Tuesday -- well below the threshold of five per day -- with no new mystery cases.
Mr Andrews also left the door ajar for regional Victoria to move to the Last Step before COVID Normal ahead of schedule and ahead of metropolitan Melbourne based on data.
The government initially indicated the Last Step would not be achieved until, after November 23, there are no new cases for 14 days across the state.
Mr Andrews said he was "absolutely delighted" to enable the easing of restrictions throughout regional Victoria.
"It is such good news -- I am so, so pleased and proud of every single regional Victorian who has stayed the course, followed the rules and got tested," he said.
"They have done an amazing job and I know it hasn't been easy because there have been many communities where, to the best of our knowledge, there has not been virus.
"But you have always got to be conservative, you've always got to be cautious."
Mr Andrews said the response by regional Victorians to COVID-19 had shown metropolitan Melbourne what could be achieved.
"This is a great day for regional Victoria -- I am proud of regional Victorians, I am grateful to regional Victorians -- this is a day of hope and optimism," he said.
"All of this work in regional Victoria will help to inform the early steps and subsequent steps that we will take in metropolitan Melbourne as well."
Mr Andrews said that as a result of the easing of restrictions in regional areas, Victoria Police patrols intercepting people travelling from metropolitan Melbourne would be "beefed up".
"If people are travelling into regional Victoria for no good reason given the amount of virus in metropolitan Melbourne ... that risks the virus travelling with them and we simply can't have that happen," he said.
"Regional Victorians have given too much, achieved too much, to put that at risk."
The Premier conceded the enhanced police operation would result in more vehicles being stopped and "significant queues".
"We are going to do everything we can to make sure that people are stopped, fined and turned around and sent back to the metropolitan address where they should never have really left," he said.
"This strategy is working -- it has worked in regional Victoria -- it is working in metropolitan Melbourne.
A government spokeswoman said that in line with regional Victoria moving to the Third Step, Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes and Victorian Cross Border Commissioner Luke Wilson would discuss the ramifications for border communities with the New South Wales and South Australian governments.THE STEPS
Regional Victoria will move to the Third Step towards COVID Normal from 11.59pm on Wednesday. Last Step restrictions appear in bold where changes occur.Third Step: What it meansLeave home: No restrictions.SocialPublic gatherings: Up to 10 people outdoors; up to five visitors to the home from one nominated household (infants under 12 months of age not included in the cap). Last Step: Up to 50 people outdoors; up to 20 visitors to the home at a time.Education, childcare and workChildcare: Open.
Schools: Staged return to onsite learning for all regional students in Term 4 with safety measures in place.
Adult education: Learn from home if you can.
Work: From home if you can.Exercise and recreationOutdoor recreation: Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people 18 and younger, outdoor non-contact sport only for adults, gathering and density limits, outdoor skateparks open, outdoor fitness for groups of 10 people. Last Step: No exercise restrictions; facilities open subject to safety measures. Organised contact sports resume for all ages. Limitations for spectators.Shopping, personal services, eating and drinking outHospitality: Indoor group limit of 10 and density limits, with a cap of 20 patrons. Outdoor limit cap of 50 seated patrons subject to density limits. Last Step: Indoor group limit of 20 and seated service, with a cap of 50 patrons, outdoor dining subject to density quotient.
Retail: All open, hairdressing, beauty and tattooing services where a face covering can be worn for the duration of service. Last Step: All open.Real estate: Private inspections by appointment only, auctions outdoors with a limit of 10 people. Last Step: Operating with safety measures and record-keeping.Ceremonies and special occasions
Weddings: Up to 10 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant). Last Step: Up to 50 people, 20 in a private residence.Funerals: Allowed with up to 20 people (infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit). Last Step: Up to 50 people, 20 in a private residence.Religion: Outdoor gatherings for up to 10 people plus a faith leader, places of worship open for private worship for households or social bubbles, plus a faith leader. Last Step: Public worship (not including private ceremonies) can resume in outdoor and indoor settings subject to density quotient.Entertainment, leisure and travelTravel within Victoria: Allowed across all areas in the Third Step (except travel to areas with higher restrictions). Last Step: Allowed (can't enter any restricted area).
Entertainment: Outdoor venues and events open, subject to pre-approved plans. Last Step: Indoor and outdoor venues open with density quotient and patron caps. Staged return to events with seated spectators. Large events treated on an individual basis based on requirements and epidemiology at the time.
Accommodation and camping: Open, with caps per the social bubble. Last Step: Open.