Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has revealed details of the next phase of the state’s gradual reopening as it slowly recovers from the second wave of coronavirus.
Among a host of measures to be eased, the premier announced Melbourne’s curfew would be lifted from 5am on Monday.
“Tonight (Sunday) will be the last night of the curfew,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday.
The state recorded 16 new infections and two deaths in the past 24 hours, taking Metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day average to 22.1 from 23.6 on Saturday.
Mr Andrews announced the promising figures were coupled with there being less than 400 cases across Victoria for the first time since June 30.
He said it was a sign the strategy was working and revealed the progress had been better than what health experts had predicted.
Strict lockdown measures to combat the second wave were introduced for Victoria on July 9, with those in Melbourne having now been stuck inside for 11 weeks.
As part of the roll out of the roadmap’s Step Two for metropolitan Melbourne, Mr Andrews said from 11.59pm on Sunday thousands of workers and students would be permitted to return to their regular schedules and more allowances for exercise would be permitted.
People in regional Victoria have been subject to Step Three restrictions since September 17, which allows for groups of 10 to meet outdoors, and for restaurants and entertainment venues to operate – but with limited capacities.
Workers and students
“Firstly, 127,000 workers will return to various industries, each of those industries will have a COVID-safe plan,” he said.
“We are essentially having almost 30,000 additional workers go back to work from midnight tonight.”
Supermarkets and food distribution centres will return to full capacity
Abattoirs, seafood and meat processing plants will also increase workforces
Manufacturing can return with up to 90 per cent of its workforce
Sole traders doing outside gardening and landscaping can return
Retail pet grooming will also resume
Senior students taking exams would also return for assessments from October 3 in Metropolitan Melbourne, with arrangements being made for different regions.
“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.
“In Melbourne, 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 beginning 12 October, Melbourne primary schools are going back to face to face learning.”
Childcare, gatherings and shopping
The premier said childcare would be reopened for all children and no permit would be required nor would parents need to comply with a five-kilometre rule.
Outside gatherings would be allowed among a household or five people and a limit of no more than two households would be able to gather outside for recreation.
“That is more than what we had hoped to be able to achieve. It is not as much as people would want, but it is very important that we take those steps safely,” Mr Andrews said.
The limit of one person per household being allowed to shop at a time would also be lifted, and there would no longer be a limit of a once-a-day trip.
Weddings and exercise
A limit of five including a couple and two witnesses in outdoor spaces will be allowed at weddings from Monday onwards.
Outdoor exercise without a facility, such as hiking or fishing, would be allowed within five kilometres of home with a two-hour limit onwards from Monday.
Facilities such as tennis clubs and bowls clubs would remain closed until further notice, Mr Andrews said.
Workers carrying a permit will from Monday also be allowed to conduct outdoor exercise within five kilometres of their workplace, as well as their household as was allowed previously.
“Of course the time limits and other distancing arrangements remain in place,” Mr Andrews said, adding that outdoor pools would open too, with details on conditions to be announced later.
Healthcare and faith
One visitor per day for a maximum of two hours will be allowed in care facilities and hospitals, with patients under 18 allowed two parents or carers visiting without a time limit.
Dental care will shift to allow for routine services to be carried out, having previously been restricted to urgent care only.
Dentists as well as allied health professionals will be allowed to return to more regular operations, however will need to have a COVID-safe plan.
A limit of five people plus one faith leader for outdoor gatherings and ceremonies will be allowed in terms of faith-based activity onwards from Monday.
“At this time, that is what is it safe and we will look at whether that can be expanded... it is simply not safe for us to go beyond that limit at this time,” Mr Andrews said.
New fines for rule flouters
Mr Andrews said a new hefty penalty was being introduced for people caught doing the wrong thing after the curfew is lifted.
“We have decided that a new fine, a penalty just less than $5,000, will apply for any unlawful outdoor gatherings or indoor gatherings,” he told reporters.
“Victoria Police, the Chief Commissioner himself, will stand up tomorrow and go through some of the detail on this but it mirrors the announcement we have put in place for people travelling to regional Victoria and potentially taking the virus with them without a lawful reason.
“If you are having a party at your house, that is unlawful. That puts everything at risk.”
He said if police received a high volume of calls about a particular residence or spotted suspicious activity at a home, there would be “no warnings” and the almost $5,000 fine would be handed out.
When will the next step roll out?
Mr Andrews said that if case numbers continued on their current trajectory, more restrictions would be eased allowing for more community movement in coming weeks.
“We believe we will be be able to take that important step on the 19 October,” he said.
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