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Melburnians allowed to travel 25km from home, further restrictions will be eased from Nov 1

Hundreds of people queue outside an Australian government welfare centre, Centrelink, in Melbourne on March 23, 2020. William West | AFP via Getty Images. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MELBOURNE, Oct 18, 2020, SBS News. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a slew of changes to the state’s coronavirus restrictions as the number of daily cases drop to single digits. Melbourne residents will soon be able to travel up to 25 kilometres from their home and socialise and exercise outdoors without time limits under new changes to Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions, SBS News reported.

Outdoor gatherings will also be increased to a maximum of 10 people from two households from 11:59pm on Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews said as he outlined the new roadmap out of lockdown.

At the same time, tennis courts, skate parks, outdoor pools, golf clubs, and hairdressers will also be permitted to reopen, while real estate auctions can resume with up to 10 people. Allied health professionals will also be able to return to face-to-face care.

A five-kilometre travel bubble has been in place across Melbourne, with residents only able to exercise or socialise outside for two hours per day.

After five days of single-digit case numbers, Mr Andrews has been under pressure from federal politicians to open up the state in line with neighbouring New South Wales, but said he would not be rushed into lifting restrictions.

“I have announced today what is safe but will not undermine the sacrifice, the hard work, the pain, the amazing efforts that Victorians have put in,” he said on Sunday. “You cannot run, you cannot sprint to COVID normal. You have to do this in a measured, steady and safe way.”

Two new coronavirus infections and zero deaths were recorded in the 24 hours before Mr Andrews’ announcement on Sunday, following a single new case the previous day.

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average on Sunday sat at 7.5, with 15 mystery cases in the fortnight to 15 October.

Businesses to wait until November

Further restrictions will be eased for Melbourne from 11:59pm on 1 November, Mr Andrews said, including scrapping the rule that permits people to leave the home for only four reasons: exercise, to buy essential goods, permitted work, and health or caregiving. Two people plus any children will also be able to visit another home once a day.

Retail, personal care, and hospitality businesses will also be allowed to reopen at this time.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes will be allowed to host 20 people inside and a further 50 customers outside at any one time.

Personal training can also increase to 10 people plus the trainer.

Maximum numbers for outdoor religious gatherings will increase to 20, while 10 people will be allowed at weddings and 20 at funerals.

Under this step, travel from Melbourne to regional Victoria will still be outlawed, other than specific cases where Melbourne residents need to prepare properties in regional areas for flood or bushfire conditions.

Mr Andrews was at pains to stress that Melburnians would not be able to host AFL Grand Final parties or barbeques next week, despite the day being “a big part of who we are”.

“As important as it is, in a cultural sense, in a very passionate way, for every single football fan across our state, it is not worth risking all that we have done, all that we have built, all that we can do in just a few days’ time by having gatherings that are unsafe,” he said.

Changes in regional Victoria

Meanwhile, residents of regional Victoria from 11:59pm Sunday will be able to have two adults and any children at their home and hospitality venues will be able to expand their capacity to 70 patrons outside or 40 inside.

Libraries and toy libraries in regional Victoria will be able to open to 20 people indoors.

Outdoor religious gatherings will increase to 20 people, and then increase to 50 people from 1 November.

Also from 1 November in the regions, non-contact indoor sports, such as dance classes, can restart for under 18-year-olds with a 20 person limit. Indoor pools can open with a maximum of 20 non-adult swimmers.

The rule mandating Victorians across the state wear a face mask while in public unless they have a medical exemption has not been changed.

Mr Andrews said masks were “low cost, high benefit” and played a part in preventing a major outbreak in Shepparton, in northern Victoria, where three cases were identified earlier this week.

“So masks work, they are not everything, but as some would suggest, they are not nothing, either,” he said. “It means they are here until we make an announcement that they are not.”

Under the original roadmap out of restrictions, Melbourne was scheduled to move into the “third step” on 26 October, contingent on the state recording an average of fewer than five new daily cases across a fortnight and no more than five mystery cases in the same period.

But Mr Andrews said the targets have changed, with a maximum average of five cases per day over two weeks no longer required to move to the next step on 1 November.

Instead, testing rates, mystery case numbers and the context of new infections will inform whether further restrictions can be lifted.

“As the numbers got a very low, you do have to make that difficult judgement: could this be as good as it is going to get? And then make a proportionate decision,” he said.

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