Premier Daniel Andrews has outlined the roadmap out of stage three coronavirus restrictions for regional Victoria, and issued a reminder about why it’s critical to be cautious about timing.
The town of Colac, about 150 kilometres southwest of Melbourne and with a population of about 13,000, has been rocked by a rapid outbreak of COVID-19 in just several days.
“One case has led to 24 people becoming infected in just a few days in one town experiencing this virus,” Mr Andrews said.
“If anyone listening or watching right now needed any further evidence, and I don‘t think many people do, because they have been living this, one person, one case, less than a week in one country town, 24 people have got this virus.
“It spreads like fire. And until we put this out, until we contain this properly, we cannot open up.
“Because if we did that we would not be opening up at all, we would simply be beginning a third wave. One that will do even more damage than this pandemic has already done.”
Mr Andrews today unveiled two roadmaps out of current tough restrictions – one for Melbourne, and one for the rest of the state.
“In general terms, in regional Victoria, those numbers are low and they need to be lower of course but they are low and we are very grateful to everyone in regional Victoria for the contribution that they are making,” Mr Andrews said.
“There are 98 cases in local regional government areas that are in stage three restrictions so as we predicted a few days ago, that number is now below 100 for the first time in white some time. It was well over 500 not long ago.”
From mid-September, residents outside of Melbourne can start returning to some semblance of normal, with schools opening and two separate households being allowed to mix.
But Mr Andrews emphasised changes would be “modest” to begin with.
“We have to take a steady and safe steps out of lockdown to find that COVID normal,” he said.
Regional Victoria has been subject to stage three measures for weeks, but that’s about to change — as long as the coronavirus case numbers remain steady.
From 11.59pm on September 13, residents outside of Greater Melbourne can have their own “social bubbles” — meaning they can mix with people outside of their households.
“Up to five people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors for social interaction – infants under 12 months of age are not included in the cap,” Mr Andrews said.
Visitors to the home would be allowed in a “single person bubble” system where one nominated visitor if living alone or a single parent, all children under 18, would be allowed inside someone’s house.
Schools and childcare are also set to open on this date.
Restaurants and cafes would open for takeaway and delivery only while retail places and hairdressers would also open up.
The next step in regional Victoria’s road map didn’t have set date as it is “subject to public health advice”.
In a statement, the government promised step three if “Daily average number of cases in the last 14 days in Regional Victoria is less than 5 AND Less than 0 cases in Regional Victoria with an unknown source in the last 14 days”.
This step would see increased reopening for sport, recreation, ceremonies and special occasions.
Changes would include: no restrictions on leaving home, public gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors, hospitality open for predominately outdoor seated service only and all retail open, except personal care (hairdressers excluded from this).
But it’s not all good news for some regional areas like greater Geelong.
“The Geelong corridor is of some concern to us,” Premier Andrews added. “It remains part of regional Victoria for the part of these rules. But it is fair to say Geelong is on close watch.
“We may have to treat Geelong separately. I’m giving people fair warning of that.”
Overall, Geelong now has 19 active cases, down from 100 just over a month ago.