Crowds return to Spring Racing, live music

By Liz Hobday
About 10,000 racing fans will be able to attend the Melbourne Cup, as Victoria deals with COVID-19. (AAP)

Double-vaccinated Victorians will be able to attend the Melbourne Cup and live music within weeks under a large-scale trial of crowd numbers.

About 10,000 racing fans can go to the Melbourne Cup on November 2, while Oaks Day and Stakes Day will be allowed similar-sized crowds if the state reaches its 80 per cent COVID-19 double-jab threshold.

A live music event will also be held at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl on October 30 with thousands of people attending.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the events send an important signal about changes over the coming months.

"We're going to normalise this virus, we are going to move through this difficult gateway, we're going to open up and we're going to be back doing what we do best," he told reporters on Sunday.

The events are part of a large-scale trial of vaccination status checks that will see patrons asked to show a digital or printed vaccination certificate, immunisation history statement, or a medical exemption to enter a venue.

The checks are part of plans to open up the economy when the state hits 80 per cent vaccination targets, expected on about November 5.

Derby Day on October 30, which attracted more than 80,000 people in 2019, won't be included in the trial.

The Health Department's Kate Matson says about 16,000 secondary contacts can leave isolation. (AAP)

The state's racing and major events minister Martin Pakula acknowledged that the race meet limits were tighter than the 11,500 people the industry had been aiming for, but he said they were an important test.

"I think there is a powerful emotion and urge in the community for us to get open ... I think it's a really important signal to send to the nation and to the rest of the world that Melbourne is opening up," he said.

Victoria Racing Club chairman Neil Wilson said the industry is grateful.

"The Lexus Melbourne Cup is Australia's original major event, with a global audience reach of 750 million people, and is a significant driver of economic activity for Victoria," he said.

But Simon Thewlis from Save Victorian Events described the focus on racing as a slap in the face, and said the events industry still did not know when more than 150 people at a venue might be allowed.

Meanwhile, the opposition has called for crowd density rules of one person per one-to-two square metres when the state hits 70 per cent vaccination.

"That's a sensible way forward to bring our events sector back to life," opposition leader Matthew Guy told the media.

More than 86 per cent of over 16s have had one jab and more than 58 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Victoria has recorded 1890 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths in the latest reporting period. (AAP)

The government's large-scale events trial will follow smaller tests in regional Victorian venues to start from Monday including cinemas, hotels, a gym, a church, and a beauty clinic.

The 15 venues participating include pubs in Cowes, Wycheproof, and the Pyrenees, and several venues in east Gippsland, Bendigo and Warrnambool.

On Sunday Victoria added 1890 COVID-19 infections to its caseload and another five deaths over the past 24 hours.

Victoria is managing more than 18,340 active cases. Another 609 people are in hospital, with 126 in intensive care and 88 on ventilators.

Less that seven per cent of those in hospital have been fully vaccinated.

Almost 40,000 vaccines were administered across the state on Saturday, while 74,105 tests were conducted.

Meanwhile, tracing efforts have been scaled back to focus on positive cases and primary contacts.

About 16,000 secondary contacts are being allowed to leave isolation this weekend as authorities change their processes to manage escalating case numbers.

Residents of Mildura are again in lockdown to contain growing cases, with 18 new cases recorded on Sunday and 55 active infections across Sunraysia.


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