It’s the news Victorians have been waiting for: residents in lockdown can get out of home and take the next step towards life as normal.
Well, COVID-19 normal.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday morning “significant” easing of restrictions for the state from Monday, including an end to lockdown for Melburnians, as well as another slate of changes to come in on November 1 – and potentially, even earlier.
“I’ve announced today what is safe but what will not undermine the efforts that Victorians have put in,” Mr Andrews said
From 11.59pm on Sunday, Victorians will be able to travel in a radius of 25 kilometres from their home, up from the current five kilometres.
The two-hour limit for outdoor exercise or socialising will be scrapped, and Victorians will be able to meet outside in groups of 10 from two households.
Outdoor sport venues like tennis courts, golf courses and skateparks will open, as will hairdressers. Outdoor pools will be able to welcome 30 swimmers, and one-on-one hydrotherapy pool sessions can resume indoors.
Other changes include the resumption of commercial real estate inspections and real estate auctions with 10 people; outdoor home maintenance including repairs, renovations and house painting; and other outdoor work like car washing, pool cleaning, mobile or home pet grooming, and outdoor photography.
Mr Andrews also promised “a full return” of allied health services, as well as the reopening of libraries,
The decision to let metropolitan residents move out of their homes and reopen businesses comes after another day of single-figure COVID-19 diagnoses and no fatalities.
“Victorians have done an amazing job over recent weeks and months,” Mr Andrews said.
What it means is that as so many cities across the world head into what is going to be a deadly winter, we in Melbourne and across Victoria are well-placed to have a COVIDSafe summer and a COVID normal 2021.
“We just have a little longer to go … to defeat this second wave … and then, to find that normal.”
In regional areas, households won’t need to have nominated a “bubble” and will instead be able to have two adults from different families over, plus dependants.
Cafes and restaurants will be able to seat 70 customers outdoors, plus 40 inside.
Mr Andrews also announced a number of changes to be made from November 1 for all Melburnians, including the removal of the ‘four reasons’ to leave home.
From that date, people in Melbourne will be able to host two visitors at their homes, hospitality venues can host 20 people inside and 50 people outside, while 20 people will be allowed at outdoor religious gatherings or funerals. Non-contact sport will also be allowed to resume, as will dance classes and personal training.
More rules on hospitality and business will also be eased from that date, including for personal services and beauty.
Statement on further easing of restrictions in Melbourne and regional Victoria: pic.twitter.com/aGrrU3AFWO
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) October 18, 2020
Weddings will be capped at 10 people, while outdoor seated entertainment can welcome 50 people or 25 percent of the venue’s fixed seat capacity.
The Premier said the second set of changes could actually be brought forward from November 1, if case numbers remain very low through the next week.
“Yes, these lockdowns have come with pain and damage and hurt, but the strategy is working and will continue to work,” he said.
“We just have a little longer to go, in order to see off the second wave, defeat the second wave, and then to find the normal and to begin the process of rebuilding.”
The state reported two new cases on Sunday and a rolling daily case count of 7.5 in metropolitan Melbourne for the fortnight up to Saturday. Regional Victoria’s two-week average is 0.5.
There also remains 15 “mystery” cases – all of them in metro areas.
The statistics mean Victoria’s coronavirus death count remains at 816 and the national toll is 904.
Mr Andrews stressed that the AFL grand final next Sunday could not be used as an excuse for people to break the rules, warning that the restrictions on home visits still applied.
“Your household and only the members of your household, that is how grand final day has to be,” he said.
“You cannot have friends over, into your home.”
Federal government accused of “playing games”
Earlier, federal health minister Greg Hunt urged the Victorian government to ease restrictions in line with NSW.
“The epidemiological conditions for a COVID-safe reopening of hospitality, movement (and) family reunions among others, have now been firmly met,” Mr Hunt posted on Twitter on Saturday.
“Victoria should now be able to move to the next step in line (with) NSW.”
However Mr Andrews said Mr Hunt was not an epidemiologist and accused him of “playing games”, before adding that he would not be rushed in reopening Victoria.
“We are not going to risk everything that Victorians have sacrificed. And that’s why this strategy is not about racing to open up (and) running to COVID-normal – it’s about safe and steady steps,” the premier said.
“We are right on the edge now of defeating this second wave. It’s not occurred in many countries, if any, across the world.”
Melbourne residents are subject to restrictions including a two-hour daily outdoor exercise window within 5km of home, and no more than five people from two households can gather outside.
Mr Andrews has confirmed Sunday’s announcements will be “much more in the social space than in the economic space”, dashing the hopes of those in retail and hospitality industries.
Health authorities continue to investigate Victoria’s 15 cases for the fortnight up to Thursday which have no known source.