Victorians will be able to welcome 30 visitors to their homes, office capacities will increase, and wedding and funeral limits will be loosened under the latest relaxation of the state’s virus rules for a “COVIDSafe summer”.
Pub patrons will now be able to stand up inside, but masks will remain mandatory inside shops and in large crowds, with Premier Daniel Andrews saying that rule will remain until at least January.
It comes amid outrage over two arrivals from Germany who wrongly skipped hotel quarantine in Sydney and hopped onto a flight to Melbourne, with the Premier saying “something has gone wrong in NSW”.
As Victoria recorded 37 days of no new COVID infections – a statistic Mr Andrews called “remarkable” – the Premier announced another set of “significant” changes to the state’s strict social distancing rules.
Statement from the Premier on Victoria's COVIDSafe Summer: pic.twitter.com/VDNN5AbzYf
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) December 6, 2020
From 11.59pm Sunday, Victorians can have 30 people to their homes each day, up from the current 15 daily limit. Outdoor gatherings can increase to 100 people.
Hospitality venues like pubs and cafes will move to a one person per two square metres rule, with no arbitrary cap on numbers. QR code sign-ins will be mandatory.
“This will be of interest to many people as well, standing service will now be allowed again,” Mr Andrews said with a smile.
“You don’t have to be seated. You are able to stand at the public bar.”
Wedding and funeral limits will be scrapped, with only a one person per two square metre capacity restriction. Wedding dance floors can welcome up to 50 people, subject to a four square metre rule.
Office capacities will be allowed to rise to 50 per cent from January 11. Mr Andrews said that restriction would be reviewed again closer to the date, to ensure it complied with most current health advice.
Despite the gradually shifting changes, masks will remain mandatory in many crowded or indoor areas of Victoria – including shopping centres, markets, public transport, taxis or rideshare vehicles. Masks remain “recommended” in any other crowded place, indoor or outdoor, the Premier said.
Victoria has been free of locally transmitted coronavirus cases for more than a month and, with no active cases, has officially “eradicated” the virus.
Yesterday there were 0 new cases and 0 deaths reported. Thanks to all who were tested, we received 8,377 results #EveryTestHelps. There are 0 active cases across Victoria. #StaySafeStayOpen https://t.co/pcll7ySEgz #COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/Pe0obIdNn1
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) December 5, 2020
It comes as federal, NSW and Victorian authorities scramble to figure out how two overseas travellers avoided quarantine when they arrive in Sydney.
Two German travellers managed to land in Sydney and fly straight to Melbourne on a Virgin domestic flight. All passengers from Virgin flight VA838 which landed in Melbourne at 1.25pm on Saturday have been told to quarantine at home.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard and NSW Police have promised an investigation into how the breach occurred. Questions are being raised about how NSW and federal authorities allowed the travellers to slip through the net.
Mr Andrews said the two travellers had initially tested negative for COVID, but will have to stay in quarantine in VIC for a fortnight like all international arrivals.
“They are the first, albeit inadvertent, occupants of Victoria’s reset hotel quarantine system,” he said.
The Premier did not directly criticise NSW for the quarantine bungle, but said “something has gone wrong”.
“It is for the NSW authorities to do, that and I’m very confident that when Minister Hazzard confirms there will be an investigation, that’s exactly what happen,” Mr Andrews said.
“No doubt they will get to the bottom of what has happened but there will be learnings there for all of us and we can make sure that the systems we have in place are as robust as possible.”
It’s believed an employee at Melbourne airport realised the German pair had turned up without quarantining, then reported it. Mr Andrews said the employee had done an “amazing job”.
“We are very grateful to them and hopefully they are suitably honoured by their employer and if they don’t, we certainly will,” he said.
NSW recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
Five cases were reported in overseas travellers, bringing the total number of cases in NSW since the start of the pandemic to 4,421. pic.twitter.com/CK5TOLy0i4
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 6, 2020
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said there are what he described as multiple layers of containment within the quarantine and border system.
“Ultimately these passengers have been picked up in those rings of containment,” Mr Hunt assured Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“Frankly, we want to make sure every ring is impregnable so we have asked the Border Force commissioner to work with NSW on understanding the circumstances.”
NSW police confirmed in a brief statement they are investigating the matter.
Two international travellers are now in mandatory quarantine in Victoria, after arriving in Sydney today and boarding a domestic flight to Melbourne without quarantining in NSW. A comprehensive public health response is underway, including testing and full contact tracing.
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) December 5, 2020
Mr Hunt said the last 24 hours had seen the world record the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day, while in the last three days have had three of the four highest days of deaths.
“So this disease continues to spread around the world,” he said.
“We are an island sanctuary and so what we do with vaccines, we want to make sure is about absolute safety.”
Western Australia remains the only state with a question mark over its border, as Premier Mark McGowan has yet to decide whether he will reopen to NSW residents as scheduled.
WA remains on track to open up to Victoria from Tuesday, dropping the 14-day requirement for travel from that state.