Most of regional Victoria to exit lockdown

·3-min read

Regional Victorians will soon have more freedom with lockdown set to end except for Greater Shepparton, but strict patron caps will make it unviable for many cafes, restaurants and bars to reopen.

Victoria recorded 221 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with a handful of new cases reported in regional areas including the Latrobe Valley, Bellarine Peninsula, Moorabool and Mitchell Shire.

Premier Daniel Andrews says stay-at-home rules and travel limits will be lifted for most of the regions from 11.59pm on Thursday, due to fewer cases and localised outbreaks being brought under control.

However, a large number of post-lockdown restrictions will apply in regional Victoria including a maximum of 10 people allowed to dine inside hospitality businesses, with 20 permitted outside.

Some businesses have already decided the limits will make it unviable for them to reopen.

"It's a nice gesture but with the capacity rules at 10 people indoors it's not viable for us to open our doors," Geelong restaurant Bistrot Plume wrote on Facebook.

Eclectic Tastes Cafe and Pantry in Ballarat will offer seating outside for takeaway only, saying "the limit of 10 customers indoors does not leave us in a position to reopen at this time".

Ballarat Yacht Club said it is "evaluating the viability of reopening" due to the caps, in a post on Instagram.

Ten-person caps will also apply to all hairdressing and beauty businesses, while entertainment venues will be limited to 20 people indoors and retail can reopen with density requirements.

There will be no limit to the distance regional Victorians can travel, with holiday accommodation allowed for single households, intimate partners or single bubbles.

Schools will reopen for prep to year two and year 12 students, but remote learning remains for all others. Kindergarten and childcare services will also resume.

Other restrictions include a ban on visiting homes, outdoor gatherings limited to 10 people and face masks required indoors and outdoors.

Nationals MP Peter Walsh welcomed the change, but said future lockdowns should be limited to hotspots "to make sure communities that are hundreds of kilometres away and have no cases don't suffer unnecessarily".

Meanwhile, Greater Shepparton will remain under lockdown until at least next week, despite no new cases being reported in the area on Wednesday.

One case has been recorded in Shepparton in the past two days - a household contact - bringing total active cases to 83.

Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp says the town is "probably in the third quarter" of its outbreak.

"We are pleased to say that those numbers are beginning to trend down," he said.

Mr Andrews said he hopes Shepparton will join the rest of regional Victoria by coming out of lockdown next week.

"We will make those announcements as soon as we have tidied up the last bits of the outbreak there," he said.

About 200 police officers will be sent to patrol the edges of Melbourne and Shepparton to ensure people do not leave locked-down areas to go into regional Victoria.

Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said police will use booze buses, random checkpoints, roving patrols and numberplate technology to catch people out from midnight on Thursday.

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