Regional Victoria will open up in the next 24 hours, as restrictions ease to allow pubs and restaurants to host outdoor dining, people will be allowed up to five nominated visitors in their homes.
Premier Daniel Andrews said regional Victoria had done « a mighty job » in keeping the coronavirus at bay and could move to step three in the government’s road map.
No new cases in the regions were recorded overnight, and active cases dropped from 47 to 43, bringing the 14 day average down to 3.6.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons outside with density quotas. Tables will have to be 1.5 metres apart. Larger venues will be able to seat up to 70 people outdoors at the one time and 20 people inside. There will be a cap of 50 seated patrons per space.
Regional Victorians will still have to wear masks but the four reasons for leaving home will no longer apply. Accommodation operators will be allowed to reopen under tight restrictions.
Melburnians will still not be allowed to travel into country Victoria. Border controls around Melbourne will be strengthened to prevent the virus being carried out of the city.
« We can’t have people travelling unnecessarily and unlawfully into regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne, and potentially taking the virus with them. »
People will still not be permitted to go to their second residences. « That’s simply not on, » Mr Andrews said.
« That puts everything at risk. It’s unnecessary movement. It’s unlawful movement. Regional Victorians will be allowed to travel within the regions.
Victoria recorded 42 new cases of coronavirus in the past day and no further deaths, for the first time in two months.
The 14-day average for Melbourne is now 52.9 and there are 4,282 ‘mystery’ cases from an unknown source.
This is the first day since July 12 there have been no new coronavirus deaths in Victoria.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Allen Cheng said, « clearly it’s better to announce no new deaths yesterday compared to 20 or 30 deaths we were reporting a month ago ».
« There are 118 people in hospital and 11 in intensive care and 511 active cases linked to aged care so there are likely to be deaths ongoing but clearly it’s much lower than it was and I’ll take that. »
Yesterday in Casey there were only three cases. There had been 10 the day before and 10 the day before that, he said.
Professor Cheng said authorities were still keeping a close eye on the cluster in the area, and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton was speaking directly to multicultural community leaders.
Asked if Melbourne could sooner than expected under the government’s road map out of stage four restrictions, Mr Andrews said the situation for Melbourne was different.
« Case numbers are one part of this. The narrative or the story that sits behind these case numbers [are also important, such as] Where did they get it? How much do we know? How confident are we that it’s actually contained? » he said.
He said that authorities would not see the effect of today’s easing of restrictions in regional Victoria for two weeks, and that there needed to be a passing of time to make sure all cases were accounted for.
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Benjamin is The Age’s regional editor. He was previously state rounds reporter and has also covered education for The Age.
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