Victoria has pledged $13 million to support ailing live music venues hit hard by COVID lockdowns, as the state again records its lowest new case numbers in months.
Despite the promising numbers – which Premier Daniel Andrews optimistically called “a good day” – and a rolling 14-day average case number of 36 in metro Melbourne, the government will not consider easing any restrictions for at least another week.
Just 14 new cases were logged in the state in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.
“That is proof positive, beyond any question, that this strategy is working. These numbers are coming down,” Mr Andrews said.
“It is a very good number.”
The Premier said he hoped to make “significant” announcements next Sunday, if numbers continued to trend down.
We can do this. pic.twitter.com/xkPa7sYmrT
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) September 20, 2020
In announcing the lowest daily number since June, the Premier also unveiled a package of support for the state’s live music sector.
Entertainment and concert venues were among the first businesses to shut down during lockdowns, and likely to be among the last to be allowed to fully reopen, with music industry figures begging governments nationwide for more support.
Now, even as venues in other states begin to slowly reopen – with socially-distanced gigs and seated concerts – Victoria’s latest lockdowns have seen music businesses essentially closed down again.
Mr Andrews and Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley announced a $13 million package of grants and supports for venues, with some 100 businesses said to stand to benefit.
The scheme is meant to help venues “cover urgent overheads and put COVID-safe measures in place”, as well as host events, employ artists and technical staff, and offset costs as venues operate with strict capacity limits.
Venues, artists and events will be able to apply for grants of up to $50,000.
“Melbourne, has the highest number of live music venues per capita anywhere in the world. And that underpins the whole rich ecology of our contemporary live music sector and the tens of thousands of jobs and the thousands of creative musicians that it sustains,” Mr Foley said at the daily COVID briefing.
Almost $10 million will go to helping music venues survive shutdowns and prepare their businesses to be COVID-safe when allowed to finally reopen, with another $3 million to support artists, festivals and events. Iconic Victorian music venues like the Northcote Social Club, the Grace Darling Hotel, 170 Russell and the Corner Hotel were named by Mr Foley as among those which would benefit from the Victorian Live Music Venues package.
— Victorian Government News (@VicGovtNews) September 20, 2020
Despite the plummeting case numbers, and the 14-day average firmly within the 30 to 50 window cited as necessary before considering the easing of lockdowns, Mr Andrews said he wouldn’t plan to fast-track any changes just yet.
The Premier said he hoped numbers would keep dropping over the next week.
“We won’t spend 2021 bouncing in and out of lockdowns,” Mr Andrews said.
“I’d like it a little bit lower and we just have to stay the course.”
He said he wanted to see numbers at sustained low levels, over a longer period of time, before considering more changes.
“As frustrating as that is, it kind of validates or supports that those numbers are a real and an accurate reflection of how much virus is out there,” Mr Andrews said.
“To do this, just off one single 14-day period, or to do it off one day or a five-day grouping, that runs the risk that you’re not getting the most complete picture.”