Sunday will be the last day Victorians must wear face masks each time they go outside, and from this week residents will be able to welcome 15 people into their homes.
If all goes to plan under the next stage of coronavirus rules, there could be up to 30 family and friends at Christmas tables around the state.
The move comes as other states also ease restrictions, with South Australia dropping its statewide three-day lockdown and New South Wales opening its border to Victoria.
The relaxation of the controversial Victorian mask edict came as the state again notched another day of zero new infections and deaths, with Premier Daniel Andrews praising the “amazing job” residents had done in beating back the nation’s worst virus outbreak.
Statement on further easing of restrictions in Victoria: pic.twitter.com/NKnwxC81er
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) November 21, 2020
Further tinkering of rules will allow 25 per cent of workers to return to some offices, wedding and funeral capacities to increase to 150 people, and boosts to guest numbers at cinemas, restaurants and more.
Outdoor gatherings will also increase to 50 people.
But it is the certainty for holiday gatherings that has excited many, with the Premier confirming 30 people a day will be allowed to visit homes – just in time, he noted, for some Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations.
“From 11.59pm on Sunday, December 13, 30 visitors will be allowed to your home – that is 30 across the course of a day,” Mr Andrews said.
“That is not 30 for lunch and 30 for dinner, it is 30 across the course of the day.”
It has been 23 days since the state recorded a coronavirus death.
The Premier said the reforms were “recognition of that amazing effort … a recognition of this precious thing that we have built”.
But he stressed the situation was still “fragile” and he urged Victorians to continuing sticking to the rules.
Yesterday there were 0 new cases and 0 lost lives reported. There is 1 active case remaining. We received 10,530 test results – thanks Victoria, #EveryTestHelps. More: https://t.co/pcll7ySEgz #StaySafeStayOpen #COVID19Vic pic.twitter.com/yijW3KLf3E
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) November 21, 2020
Face masks will also no longer be mandatory outdoors, as long as people keep a safe distance from others.
People will still need to wear face masks indoors in Victoria, however, and they must carry a mask with them at all times in case they find themselves in situations where they need one.
Mr Andrews gave the example of visiting a Bunnings hardware store. He said masks would not be needed in the car park, but would be obligatory inside or in outdoor areas where it is impossible to remain 1.5 metres apart.
“If you are queueing up for a sausage, and you are with other people, and you are simply not keeping a distance, you are part of a crowd, you need to put the mask on,” he said.
Just to reiterate:
Inside Bunnings = mask
Bunnings carpark if you can keep 1.5m apart = no mask
In the Bunnings sausage sizzle line = mask
Onions = on top of the sausage
I can't be clearer than that.
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) November 22, 2020
Other changes will alter density limits at small venues to one person per two square metres, with QR code check-ins mandatory, Small venues can welcome 50 people, and larger venues 150.
Cinemas, galleries and museums will also be able to host up to 150 people indoors, while community sport will resume for adults up to a limit of 150 inside and 500 outside.
Mr Andrews also said a “phased” return of staff to offices could begin from November 30, with up to 25 per cent of staff allowed to attend onsite.
SA lockdown eased
South Australia’s rollercoaster continued on Sunday, with the government officially dropping the shortest but harshest statewide lockdown in the country.
It came after the bizarre situation on Friday where officials announced that a COVID case had allegedly lied to contact tracers, omitting the fact they worked at a pizza shop at the centre of the outbreak.
The person had claimed to have been only a customer of the shop, alarming health authorities who had feared a new, more infectious virus strain could be transferred by something as seemingly innocent as a pizza box.
SA recorded no new COVID cases on Sunday.
Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said she was “stoked” with how South Australians had followed health advice and lockdown rules, praising the state’s high test numbers.
Police have formed a special taskforce to probe the details around the pizza shop worker allegedly lying to officials, and have seized electronic devices from that person.
More details about the investigation, titled ‘Taskforce Protect’, will be revealed on Monday.
NSW opens border to Victoria
A months-long police operation to close the border between NSW and Victoria will end at 12.01am on Monday.
Commissioner Mick Fuller called the three-month stint “one of the biggest in NSW Police history,” with five million vehicles passing through checkpoints.
He praised residents of the Albury-Wodonga border region, thanking them for bringing police food, firewood and supplies.
“At any time we had 650 to 800 police and defence working 24/7,” Mr Fuller said.
NSW recorded no new cases of locally acquired #COVID19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
Eleven cases were reported in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine. This brings the total number of cases in NSW to 4,349 since the start of the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/NnCMNv4MNC
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) November 22, 2020
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the operation would have cost “several million dollars”, but “you can’t put a price on keeping the community safe”.
She said she was happy to see multiple days of zero COVID spread in both NSW and Victoria, with her state again recording no new cases or deaths on Sunday.
“I’m confident that certainly the risk that was there when we closed the borders doesn’t exist,” Ms Berejiklian said.