News Coronavirus Mask freedoms, office returns as Victoria’s COVID-free days stretch to eight

Mask freedoms, office returns as Victoria’s COVID-free days stretch to eight

victoria mask freedom
Masks will be required less often for Victorians from January 17. Photo: Getty
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Victoria’s chief health officer has declared it is safe for some workers to return to their offices from next week, after an outbreak over the new year period paused the return to workplaces.

From Monday, the Victorian public service will return to the office at 25 per cent capacity and other workplaces can increase to 50 per cent.

From midnight Sunday, mandatory mask rules will be eased to pre-Christmas rules.

That means masks remain mandatory on flights, public transport, taxis and ride sharing vehicles supermarkets and big indoor shopping centres. They will no longer be compulsory in offices, but it is recommended they be worn where physical distancing isn’t possible.

It came as the state recorded no new coronavirus infections in the community or in hotel quarantine, on the eighth straight day without locally acquired cases in the state.

There were 16,533 test results processed on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services said.

There are now 29 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria, including people in hotel quarantine.

Meanwhile, health authorities have ordered anyone in Victoria who completed their 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine in Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor hotel on or after December 30 to immediately isolate and contact the coronavirus hotline.

The advice comes as Queensland authorities contend with a cluster of six British strain COVID-19 cases linked to the hotel, including a cleaner, her partner and four guests.

The greater Brisbane areas remains a “red zone”, and under Victoria’s recent traffic light permit system people who have been in the greater Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Logan and Ipswich areas are barred from entering without an exemption.

“Previously we had asked travellers to test if they had been in these Queensland areas on or after 2 January 2021. However, this public health advice has changed based on new information from Queensland Health authorities regarding the B.1.1.7 lineage cluster in their hotel quarantine program,” the Wednesday night alert said.

The DHHS said authorities were working through 11,095 applications from people in designated red zones seeking to enter Victoria.

Since the start of the Victorian-NSW border restrictions around New Year’s Eve, 1320 exemptions have been granted and four applications have been rejected.

Almost 5000 applications had been received from people in the Greater Brisbane red zone.

victoria mask freedom
The View on St Kilda Road is one of three hotels being used to quarantine tennis players and support crews. Photo: ABC

Australian Open players and staff due to arrive

More than 1200 international players and support staff will begin arriving in Melbourne on Thursday ahead of February’s Australian Open tennis tournament.

Players are required to return a negative COVID-19 test before departing on one of 15 charter flights to the Grand Slam event.

The Victorian government has called its pre-tournament quarantine the “strictest program in the world”.

The players and staff will be housed at three Melbourne hotels and must comply with the strict rules including daily testing and supervised training.

Tennis commentator Todd Woodbridge said players were eager for the tournament to get underway.

“I think everybody is a little nervous. The players understand the enormity of what’s been laid out for them,” he said.

“They are very aware of what the rules are that the government has put in, that are very thankful for that because the understand the opportunity to play is enormous.”