Victorians could be enjoying more freedoms by next weekend, with the state on track to hit its 70 per cent full-vaccination target earlier than initially forecast.
Under the modelling that underpinned the roadmaps out of lockdown, 70 per cent of Victorians aged 16 years and over were likely to be fully vaccinated by October 26.
Eased restrictions tied to that vaccination threshold include the lifting of the stay-at-home orders and curfew, although a 25-kilometre travel bubble will still be in place for Melburnians.
On Tuesday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the state could be moving towards the targets set out in the roadmap faster than projected, however, high levels of vaccine uptake would need to be maintained for health authorities to ease restrictions earlier.
“It’s possible we’re three or four days ahead of the original forecast, but it kind of depends each and every day on those bookings getting fulfilled and people stepping up and getting the vaccine,” he said on Tuesday.
Independent data analyst Anthony Macali, who collates Australia’s COVID statistics on his own website, said figures showed Victoria was ahead of its roadmap schedule.
“We’re all on track, probably a bit earlier than the indicative dates the government provided,” Mr Macali said.
He said based on his analysis, the state was likely to hit the 70 per cent double-dose target by October 22 or 23, and the 80 per cent target by November 1 or 2.
On Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews indicated restrictions would ease as close to the actual date of the vaccination targets being met as possible.
“If we get there earlier, what a fantastic problem for us to have, what a fantastic challenge for us to have to deal with,” he said.
“I’d be looking to have us open up, end the lockdown, trigger all of those things as close to when we actually tick over the 70 per cent as possible.”
Health authorities said this week that Victoria’s first vaccination rate had now surpassed that of countries such as the United States, Israel, Germany and Sweden.
Dean of Health Science at Swinburne University Bruce Thompson said there was a general level of optimism in the community about the state’s vaccination push.
“Can we get it earlier than when we think we can? That would be just wonderful. But the way it’s looking, it’s not going to be later,” Professor Thompson said.
He said the vast majority of people who began the vaccination process completed it, giving health professionals confidence Victoria’s second dose figures would soon match its first dose figures.
“So many people have had the first dose, so it’s pretty sure that they’re going to have the second dose. So that really does assure us that actually we’re getting this well and truly under control.
“The way the numbers are looking, each one of them is about 10 days away. 10 days for 70 per cent, another 10 days for 80 per cent. When we think about it, it’s not that far.”
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said businesses were feeling buoyed by the projections.
“If we can get to October 22nd, it means that we get an extra weekend and then hopefully it means the 80 per cent [target] comes forward, which gives us an extra couple of days, and then that really starts to open Victoria up,” he said.
Household visits remain tied to 80 per cent target
The government has kept a firm stance on the state’s COVID-19 restrictions and said health authorities would continue to review epidemiology on a daily basis to make decisions.
Under the roadmap, household visits will not return in Melbourne until the 80 per cent vaccination target is hit, which was initially forecast for November 5.
Professor Sutton said household transmission was still a driver of COVID-19 cases.
He said that condition of returning to household visitors being allowed once 80 per cent of eligible Victorians were double-vaccinated had come from health authorities wanting to reach a “safe zone”.
“Getting into that zone is a really different kind of ball game in terms of the protections that we have,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s excluding the possibility of in-home visits [at 70 per cent full vaccination] but it’s not part of our current roadmap.”
The opposition is pushing the government to adopt a similar approach to New South Wales, and accelerate the reopening of the economy at the 70 per cent threshold.
The Coalition has argued hospitality, gyms, outdoor events and retail should reopen at that point, with density limits of one person per 4 square metres outdoors and one person per 2 square metres indoors.
The opposition has suggested some overall caps remain for gyms and outdoor events, but not hospitality.
The government’s plan contains the same density rules, but also includes overall caps which will continue to restrict most industries for the 70 per cent and 80 per cent stages of reopening.
Health Minister Martin Foley said there were no alterations to the roadmap to be announced.
“We’ve got nothing to add to the roadmap. It’s transparent.”