Regional Victorians will get their first taste of freedom today as restrictions are eased and locals move to step three of their coronavirus reopening roadmap.
The changes, which came into effect at 11.59pm last night, widen the gap between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria as those living in the city remain under stage four restrictions.
The changes came the same day Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews promised to beef-up the “ring of steel” around the state’s capital to stop lockdown-weary Melburnians from escaping to the country. Police said they hope to check the IDs of every person passing through Melbourne with hundreds of officers expected to be stationed around the city.
“It will mean that there will be significant queues, there will be travel issues,” Mr Andrews told reporters earlier this week.
“Certainly the message I get is (regional Victorians) jealously guard the low numbers … and they want to keep it that way.”
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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
WHAT RESTRICTIONS HAVE EASED
Regional Victorians will be allowed to do a number of things they’ve been banned from doing for weeks including travel around the state, meet with groups of 10 outdoors and put their kids back in community sport.
The Premier praised Victorians earlier this week for their hard work – which has seen the 14-day rolling average of coronavirus cases drop to 2.9 in regional areas and 44.4 in Melbourne.
“I am absolutely delighted to be able to announce that regional Victoria…will be able to take the third step in our safe and steady road map to COVID-normal,” Mr Andrews said on Tuesday.
“It‘s a massive thing. 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, got tested.”
Regional Victorians will no longer need a reason to leave their home and are free to go out as often as they want.
Groups of up to 10 are allowed to meet outside and regional Victorians can choose another household to be in their “bubble” with either household permitted to visit each other.
Regional Victorians can holiday around the state. Picture: Jason EdwardsSource:News Corp Australia
Cafes and restaurants have also reopened with hospitality venues allowed to take bookings of up to 10 people, as long as the 4 square metre per person rule is obeyed. A maximum of 10 people are allowed in indoor venues.
The restrictions will be even more relaxed for hospitality venues that can seat people outside with a maximum of 50 patrons permitted in outdoor areas.
Perhaps the most exciting change for regional Victorians is the ability to travel around the state.
Victoria Police deputy commissioner Rick Nugent said people were also allowed to travel through Melbourne to get to that holiday – as long as they’re passing through before curfew.
“The restrictions do permit that,” Mr Nugent said.
“You might have someone, for example, going from Bairnsdale to Geelong, then they‘re permitted to do that.”
However, regional Victorians are not allowed to holiday in Melbourne yet, at least not until both areas are on the same restriction level.
Hotels, campgrounds and caravan parks will reopen across regional Victoria and day trips are also permitted.
Weddings will be allowed 10 people, including a celebrant and up to 20 people can attend a funeral.
Kids can go back to playing weekend sport however adults are only allowed to resume outdoor non-contact sport.
Kids can resume sport. Picture: Jason EdwardsSource:News Corp Australia
Beauty services, tattoo parlours and real estate will also reopen.
Elective surgery is also back on the cards with regional Victoria jumping to 75 per cent of normal activity. Melbourne will do the same from September 28.
This means an extra 18,750 elective surgeries will be carried out across public and private hospitals in October, plus 10,500 in November.
Specialist outpatient visits and non-urgent dental procedures will also resume.
But there’s one thing that isn’t being scaled back – mask use will remain mandatory.
Elective surgery will resume across regional Victoria. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied
The decision to ease restrictions in regional Victoria due to the area’s mere 37 active cases. Melbourne has 948.
Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth yesterday commended the “titanic efforts” of Victorians in fighting the virus.
“The numbers are clearly improving on a national level and most pleasingly in Victoria and the 7-day rolling average of course dipped below 50 cases per day,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters.
“But very positive news and a testimony to the titanic efforts of the Victorian community in Melbourne and surrounds under the Stage 4 restrictions and regional Victoria as well.
“And certainly pleasing to see that some of those restrictions that regional Victorians have been living under are starting to be lifted.”
Dr Nick Coatsworth praised Victorians for getting their virus cases down. Picture: David Gray/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
MELBOURNE RESIDENTS STILL FACE WEEKS OF STAGE FOUR
Despite the promising move for regional Victoria, Melburnians are still facing more than a week under stage four restrictions with the target date to relax rules still September 28.
But the Director of Emergency at Royal Melbourne Hospital today said it was still too early to start opening up Melbourne despite a big drop in case numbers.
“I think it would be very premature to do it at the moment, if we dip into that range,” Dr Mark Putland told the Today show.
“These things can dip up and down a bit, you wanted to be securely there, or we would be kicking ourselves if we had to shut down again.
“It would be hard for businesses to open and shut three days later.
“It‘s heartbreaking watching the country all wake up and start to relax and you think it’s so close and you get hungry for it, but we have got to hang on.”
Residents in 36 Melbourne suburbs will hit the 80th day of harsh restrictions this week, a lockdown first put in place to help the city bring its second wave of coronavirus under control.
Certain Melbourne postcodes were locked down from July 1 in the city‘s second wave, with the whole of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire put into a second lockdown from July 9, for a minimum of six weeks, in a bid to suppress the continued high rates of new cases.
The restrictions are due to be eased from September 28 if the 14-day case average remains below 30-50 per day.
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