Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has announced he will deliver a roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, offering a glimpse at what Melburnians can potentially expect over the coming months.
After mounting pressure to outline his exit strategy, culminating in a scathing on-air attack from Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday, Mr Andrews told reporters a roadmap would be delivered on September 6.
“There is an enormous amount of work going on, modelling scenarios being run through various supercomputers ... and we will be in a position to be able to share that road map, what it will look like, its various components and phases with the community on Sunday,” he said.
Mr Andrews said it was too early to deliver the roadmap any earlier than Sunday and hoped an extra week of data proves “invaluable” to their response.
“If we do it properly and we will, with a phased appropriate, safe and steady opening up, then we will avoid a third wave,” he said.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he hoped cases dropped to 40 daily infections by the weekend.
Mr Andrews said details regarding the industries that have been closed during Stage 4 will be provided on Sunday.
“Things like the cafes, bars, restaurants, retail, personal care, all of those sorts of different categories,” he said.
“The degree or the amount of information we can provide for each of those may vary – I want to be clear about that, we're not going to be able to necessarily give every single sector a hard and fast date at which they'll be reopening.”
The six things businesses must follow
The Victorian government released a checklist of six things all businesses should fix to keep COVID-safe, with Mr Andrews stressing an exit strategy would only be possible if people adhered to them.
“There will be a number of key principles that underpin this opening up roadmap,” Mr Andrews said.
The six musts identified are:
Ensure physical distancing - All people in the workplace should be 1.5m apart and there should be no overcrowded areas.
Wear a mask - Staff and customers should always wear a mask in the workplace.
Practise good hygiene - Regularly clean high touch points and encourage staff to regularly wash their hands.
Act quickly if staff become unwell - Have a strict policy that any staff who feel unwell must stay at home.
Avoid interactions in enclosed spaces - Wherever possible, move activities outside or to well-ventilated areas.
Create workforce bubbles - Limit the number of people staff have prolonged close contact with.
Mr Andrews said in a week’s time his government will be forced to take “a risk” as the different options for opening up are put on the table.
“They will all come with a risk that we lose some control. None of those models will be 100% safe.
“The question is, calibrating that right, getting that right, during the detailed work and having the lowest risk possible of not being able to deliver that multi-month stable COVID normal.”
He said as the state moves into stage three and subsequently into stage 2 if cases remain low, these steps would look “very different” to what was experienced when exiting restrictions from the first wave.
Mr Andrews was characteristically reluctant to provide an insight into what number daily infections need to be at to trigger a relaxation of restrictions, and told reporters he could not guarantee Stage 4 restrictions would wrap up after its initial six weeks on September 13.
He has previously hinted that number could be about 20 depending on mystery cases, reiterating on Monday health authorities “want these numbers down as low as they can possibly be”.
Hint to hospitality operations moving forward
One area Mr Andrews said would see a different exit strategy was the hospitality industry, with exiting in warmer months providing opportunities that weren’t available in May and moving into winter.
“When it comes to cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs, I think the improving weather and the part of the year we are moving into does give us some options that we simply didn't have last time,” he said.
“Namely more outdoor eating, more outdoor service, and we're looking at that very closely and we will be having very detailed discussions with that just as one example.”
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are feared to be lost in the hospitality industry once the full effect of restrictions have taken effect, with industry bosses now in discussions with the government on how they can minimise the economic destruction caused.
Professor Sutton said if Melburnians could “hold the cause” and see out Stage 4 in the coming weeks, a summer of “some familiarity” was possible including seeing friends and family, going out to dinner and “enjoying those sunny days”.
Premier’s Christmas Day pledge
Mr Andrews appeared cautious when speaking about relaxing restrictions surrounding group gatherings.
“There's no denying the reality that large groups of people congregating in their home, families visiting each other, friends visiting each other was a massive contributor to the number of cases that we have seen in this second wave,” he said.
Mr Andrews suggested gathering in places such as restaurants was in fact safer than at home with friends and family due to the strict COVID-safe guidelines.
And while he said it “might be a while” before large gatherings at home were allowed, he said he hoped by December 25, families and friends could gather with relative freedom.
“I want to make sure we have a Christmas Day as close to normal as possible,” he said.
Announcement on single-person households imminent
On Friday, Professor Sutton said he was considering new restrictions that allowed people living alone to see others.
Mr Andrews said on Monday his government was looking to bring in those changes “as quickly as we can”.
“We think there's a way forward there and as soon as we're able to make announcements about that, we will,” he said.
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