New mask, gathering rules for Victorians

·3-min read

Victorians can soon have 100 visitors at home and won't need to wear masks at shops, in the most significant easing of restrictions since the pandemic started.

Acting Premier James Merlino says from 6pm on Friday, people will be able to have 100 visitors at home, up from the previous cap of 30, while public gatherings can double from 100 to 200.

"We know that the risk is far from over. But thanks to the incredible work of all Victorians, we're continuing to open up and return to the city and the state we love, in terms of its life and vibrancy," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Masks will no longer be required in retail settings, though Victorians will still need to wear them on public transport, in taxis and rideshare vehicles and in aged care facilities and hospitals.

Density limits will be eased at casinos, nightclubs and karaoke venues from one person per four square metres to one person per two square metres, bringing the venues into line with cafes, pubs and restaurants.

The 50-person cap on dancefloors will also be scrapped.

Offices will be able to increase their capacity from 75 per cent to 100 per cent, though a density limit of one person per two square metres will still apply.

A revised flexible work policy for the Victorian public service was also released on Tuesday, which requires workers to return to the office at least three days a week.

Five new "suburban government hubs" will also be set up across Melbourne to allow up to 2380 public servants to work closer to home while also increasing economic activity in the suburbs.

One hub is functional in Footscray, with two more in Mulgrave and Williams Landing to open before June 30.

"It's a reflection of a significant change in the way we work and live," Mr Merlino said.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said it was about time more public servants returned to the office.

"Those small businesses that service those offices, they really need those public servants back at the desk to buy the coffee, buy the sandwich, buy the newspaper and keep those small businesses humming," he told reporters in the Latrobe Valley on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, crowd numbers have also been increased to 75 per cent of stadium capacity in time for round two of the AFL, meaning about 75,000 fans will be able to watch Carlton play Collingwood at the MCG on Thursday.

The eased restrictions come as the state's active cases dropped to zero on Tuesday, for the first time since December 10 last year.

It is also a year to the day the state entered its first of three lockdowns.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned the risk of coronavirus outbreaks could increase as the weather cools and people spend more times indoors.

"Keep that awareness of symptomatic illness, do the testing that needs to be done, make sure you're checking in with those QR codes wherever you go," he said.

The eased restrictions come as the state is expected to restart its hotel quarantine program.

International flights have been suspended since February 13, when a hotel quarantine worker contracted the highly infectious UK virus strain from returned travellers at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

The outbreak triggered the state's five-day, circuit-breaker lockdown.

Mr Merlino said government-commissioned reviews into variant strains of COVID-19 and ventilation at the state's quarantine hotels were complete.

"We're working through the reviews, working through the numbers of what's possible, and I'll make some announcements later in terms of flights returning and hotel quarantine later in the week," he said.