Victoria on Monday reported seven deaths from coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 35 new cases, its lowest daily rise in infections since late June.
The state has eased some restrictions in Melbourne from Monday by shortening the overnight curfew by an hour and doubling the amount of time people are able to spend outside to two hours per day.
Victoria has continued a steady downward trend in daily cases in recent days with the rise in infections falling to double digits thanks to the hard lockdown from a peak of more than 700 cases in a single day in early August.
The states reported 41 cases and seven deaths a day earlier.
Meanwhile police arrested 74 people and fined 176 for breaching public health orders as scattered protests against the weeks-long coronavirus lockdown continued for a second straight day across Melbourne.
A riot squad marched through fruit and vegetable stalls at the city’s landmark, the Queen Victoria market, before the scuffling with protesters erupted, with some people throwing fruit at the police, television footage showed.
Victoria Police said in a statement that there were between 200 and 250 people involved in the protests, but there were no immediately known injuries to the police.
“It was extremely disappointing to see people not just protesting but putting the lives of other Victorians at risk despite all the warnings,” the police said in an e-mailed statement.
Victoria accounts for about 75% of Australia’s more than 26,600 COVID-19 cases and more than 90% of the country’s total 810 deaths.
The city will remain under hard lockdown, but the amount of time people will be able to spend outside will double to two hours per day and the overnight curfew will be shortened by an hour as of Monday.
“They are small steps, but that’s what’s safe, absolutely appropriate, with numbers still coming down, but (remaining) too high to open up,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing earlier on Sunday.