An emotional Daniel Andrews has ended Melbourne’s lockdown, lifting several restrictions after the state recorded no new coronavirus cases for the first time in 139 days.
The Victorian premier thanked the state’s people for staying the course as he announced Melbourne’s five million people will be able to return to pubs, cafes and restaurants alongside other social changes.
It comes a day after Mr Andrews hit pause on a planned step forward on Melbourne’s road out of lockdown as he waited to get the green light from health authorities processing thousands of test results.
Metropolitan Melbourne will now take Step Three on the roadmap with significant steps from 11.59pm on Tuesday.
The easing will see hospitality venues welcome up to 20 people indoors and 50 people outdoors subject to density limits.
All retail will also reopen while the four reasons for leaving home have been removed.
“Now is the time to open up,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
“Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course. Now is the time to thank every single Victorian family for being guided by the data, the science and the doctors.”
Other key restriction changes include:
Outdoor gatherings remain at 10 however they are no longer limited to two households.
Weddings will increase to 10 people and funerals to 20.
Workplaces will no longer need work permits for staff to go to work however businesses are still asked to keep staff at home where possible.
Religious ceremonies can be up to 20 people outdoors in addition to those needed for the service.
Beauty and personal care services will resume.
Non-contact sport for adults will return, as will contact sport for under 18s.
Outdoor swimming pools can have up to 50 people depending on density limits.
Mr Andrews said his government was working over the next 24 hours to safely ease restrictions to indoor gatherings.
The border between Melbourne and regional Victoria will remain for now.
The 25km travel limit remains and will be removed among the next easing on November 8.
From despair to scenes of joy in 24 hours
Mr Andrews prompted despair from the hospitality and retail sectors in Melbourne on Sunday when he delayed an easing of restrictions he’d repeatedly hinted the industries would benefit from this week.
The state recorded zero daily cases on Monday for the first time since June 9 – providing strong evidence health authorities have got to grips with a worrying cluster in Melbourne’s north.
The cluster has led to 39 cases across 11 households, with 14 cases across the weekend forcing Mr Andrews to hold off on easing restrictions as he awaited the results of further testing despite mounting pressure to do so.
On Sunday Melbourne hit the trigger point of a 14-day rolling average below five however its mystery cases over a two-week period were at nine, four higher than the Step Three requirement of five.
On Monday both figures fell, with Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average plummeting to 3.6 while mystery cases fell to seven.
New Covid tests on Monday prove negative
Mr Andrews said all the tests processed up until midday on Monday were negative.
Asked if it was the time to “finally get on the beer”, Mr Andrews said he was in need of something stronger.
“I might go a little higher up the shelf,” he said.
“This has been a very difficult year. And Victorians have given a lot and I'm proud of every single one of them.”
Melburnians took to social media soon after Mr Andrews’ announcement to reveal their joy at the eventual reopening of many of the city’s badly-depleted businesses.
One woman described the scenes of celebration in a school car park in Rosebud.
“Listening to Dan Andrews’ press conference with a teen in the car that we are opening up! She’s crying. I’m tooting. Folks are flashing lights and hollering,” she wrote.
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