Restrictions on shopping, outdoor gatherings and exercise eased from midnight last night in Melbourne as the city begins the long road out of lockdown.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday confirmed details of the second step of a plan to steadily emerge from a near-total shutdown of the capital sparked by a second wave of coronavirus infections.
And he said the third stage of the roadmap will be enacted weeks earlier than scheduled.
“On the modelling and data and analysis of all of that, we believe that we will be able to take the next step easing all the restrictions leaving your home, when there is much more freedom of movement, on October 19.”
In the interim, as of today, outdoor public gatherings will be allowed for a single household, or a maximum of five people from no more than two households, but they must remain within five kilometres of the home.
“That is more than what we had hoped to be able to achieve,” Mr Andrews said. “It is not as much as people would want but it is very important that we take those steps safely.”
Restrictions on shopping have also now eased, with a limit of one person from each household going to the shops once a day lifted.
However, the Premier stressed Melburnians employ a commonsense approach.
“I would just say, go shopping for the things you need when you need them, it doesn‘t need to be just one person any longer but that is not an invitation for an entire family group to go to the supermarket.”
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Sporting and recreation facilities like tennis clubs and bowls clubs will remain closed.
However there will be some more liberties offered when it comes to outdoor exercise, including activities like hiking or fishing.
Outdoor pools will open, although there will be conditions that will be announced shortly.
Exercise must remain within five kilometres of the home and with a two-hour limit applied.
The big change to exercise though is that the five kilometre radius limit can also be applied to a person’s workplace.
Some 130,000 workers will return to various workplaces from Monday, which is almost 30,000 more than originally anticipated.
Industries included in these changes will be:
– Supermarkets and food distribution centres, which will be able to return to full capacity;
– Abattoirs, seafood and meat processing plants will be able to increase worker capacities;
– Manufacturing can have up to 90 per cent of the workforce return;
– Sole traders doing work outside such as gardening and landscapers can return, but they will not be able to work in teams; and
– Pet grooming services will also return.
These changes will also come with increased obligations for employers, with regular surveillance testing of staff, deep cleaning, separating workers into consistent teams and providing regular training.
The city’s notorious nightly curfew, which prevented people leaving their homes, has also lifted for good as of 5am today, but authorities will introduce a new penalty of almost $5000 for any unlawful indoor or outdoor gatherings.
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In terms of education, VCE students will return for assessments from October 5 in metropolitan Melbourne.
“Prep to grade six, special school students and VCE, VCAL students will return to on-site learning in the week beginning 12 October,” Mr Andrews said.
“So, in Melbourne, that’s ahead of schedule, we will be able to have all of our primary school kids back at school in the week beginning 12 October.
“I stress that it won‘t necessarily be every student in every year level on the one day, it may be staggered throughout the week, but in that week beginning 12 October, Melbourne primary schools are going back to face-to-face learning. I’m sure that will be great news for many families.”
Childcare opens for all children – no permit is required and the five kilometre limit does not apply.
When it comes to health-related restrictions, care facilities and hospitals will allow one visitor per day for a maximum of two hours.
For patients that are under the age of 18 years, two parents or carers can visit with no time limit.
“That is a significant shift and it is a recognition that at times of great stress it is really important to be able to be as close to loved ones as is safe,” Mr Andrews said.
“At the same time, though, that is a broad rule. I think that it stands to reason that individual hospitals and in settings within hospitals, for instance, areas that are the most vulnerable, an intensive care unit, may well have bespoke or individual arrangements.”
Dental care will be allowed with all dental surgeries practices to have a COVID-safe plan, removing the restrictions on urgent care only.
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Mr Andrews said faith-based activity will be limited to five people plus one leader for outdoor gatherings and ceremonies.
“I know that is not necessarily as much as many in the faith community would want at this time, but that is what is it safe and we will look at whether that can be expanded,” he said.
“On weddings, a limit of five including a couple and two witnesses in outdoor spaces will be allowed. At the moment, weddings are only allowed on compassionate grounds. Again, not everything people would want but an extension beyond what we had thought possible.”
Significant efforts to squash Victoria’s second wave of infections have been successful but Mr Andrews stressed the need for continued vigilance.
“One challenge we face among many is to make sure that we keep having the largest percentage, the largest number of people in Victoria who even have the mildest of symptoms coming forward and getting tested,” he said.
“Not waiting a day, not waiting at all. If you have got symptoms compatible with coronavirus, you need to come forward and get tested.
“That won‘t hold us back from opening up. In fact, that is what we want. We want to know where this virus is so that we can support you and your family and so that we can stop it spreading any further.
“What might hold us back as if we don‘t have people coming forward and getting tested.”
On Sunday Victoria recorded just 16 new coronavirus cases and two deaths.
This brought the 14 day rolling average for Melbourne to 22.1 cases, with 31 cases with an unknown source over the past two weeks.
“The fact that we are at 22.1 cases over that 14-day period as a rolling average means that this strategy is working,” Mr Andrews said. “It is more than working. We are ahead of schedule, we have made more progress than we hoped to make at this point in time.”
The rolling average for regional Victoria has also dropped and it is now at just 0.6 cases, with zero mystery cases.