Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday released a new roadmap out of stage four coronavirus restrictions – and the news is grim for Melburnians.
In a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Mr Andrews revealed the current strict COVID-19 lockdown, which was due to end in mid-September, would now be extended for an extra fortnight in metro Melbourne.
It means Melbourne residents will only be permitted to leave their home to shop for food and essential goods or services, to provide care, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment, to exercise or for permitted work, for two weeks more.
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However, there are some changes to the two-week extension of stage four, which will last from Sunday, September 13 to Monday, September 28, followed by a number of different stages with fresh rules.
Here’s everything you need to know.
From 11.59pm on September 13, Melbourne will enter the “First Step towards COVID Normal”.
The curfew will be eased by one hour “in recognition that the days are getting longer”, meaning the new curfew will be in place from 9pm to 5am.
Residents will need to remain within 5km of their home except for permitted reasons such as work or education if these cannot be done at home.
When it comes to exercise or recreation, two people or a household can meet outdoors for two hours maximum, an increase from the previous one hour.
There will also be the introduction of a “single person bubble”, which will allow one nominated visitor if a person is living alone or a single parent with all children under 18.
The “social bubbles” have been permitted to accommodate those who live alone in response to feedback received by the government.
Under step one, childcare and schools will be closed except for the children of permitted workers.
Shopping for essentials will be restricted to one person per household, once a day while restaurants and cafes will be open for takeaway and delivery only
Playgrounds will also reopen under this stage.
Mr Andrews also confirmed face masks would remain compulsory throughout the process.
From September 28 – provided thresholds are met and pending public health advice – public gatherings will be increased to five people from a maximum of two households.
A staged return to onsite learning for schools and students will begin from Term Four.
All VCE and VCAL students – in Melbourne and regional Victoria – will attend onsite for the General Achievement Test and other essential assessments from October 5.
Childcare centres will also reopen, as well as “more workplaces”, with about 101,000 workers who are currently unable to attend work able to return in a number of different industries.
Outdoor pools and outdoor training for two people with a personal trainer will be allowed, as well as outdoor religious gatherings with one faith leader.
From October 26, again depending on the success of measures so far, the dreaded curfew will end.
That means there will be no restrictions on leaving the home with regards to reasons or distance travelled.
Public gatherings will increase to 10 people outdoors, and Melburnians will be able to have visitors at home, with up to five visitors from one other nominated household.
“Much like the singles bubble there will be a household bubble,” Mr Andrews said, adding there would be further announcements regarding kids in years three to 10.
Retail and hairdressing will reopen and hospitality will recommence, although with “predominantly outdoor seated service”.
There will be a staged return of outdoor non-contact adult sport.
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The final step, which starts on November 23 for the entire state, will see gatherings of up to 50 people outdoors allowed.
Up to 20 visitors to a home will be permitted, and “all of retail will be open”.
Hospitality will enjoy a loosening of restrictions, with indoor groups with a limit of 20 people with seated service.
Real estate will open with a series of safety measures, and there will be a further easing of restrictions on sport.
Weddings and funerals will return to normal.
Once the state returns to “the COVID normal” following the completion of those “steady steps”, then “most restrictions will be dropped subject to different safety conditions and a phased return to on-site work for those who have been working at home.”
Once thresholds are met, there will be more of a semblance of normality, with no curfew or restrictions on leaving the home, public gatherings and visitors to the home, although records will continue to be kept.
Childcare and early education will be open and schools and adult learning will return to onsite learning.
There will be a phased return of employees who have been working from home and hospitality, retail and real estate will continue with record keeping and safety measures in place.
Mr Andrews also acknowledged the “sacrifices” being made by Victorians.
“I know that same sense of loss and missing those you love is being felt by every single Victorian family,” he said.
“But each of those sacrifices – each of those big, real and meaningful sacrifices – is making a difference. And slowly, together, we are driving this virus down.”
Today’s announcement comes as Victoria reported its lowest number of new cases in weeks, with 63 new infections and, sadly, five deaths in the past 24 hours.
It brings the total number of deaths in that state since the outbreak to 666.
Premier Daniel Andrews said while the news was tough, it was “the only option” in order to prevent further outbreaks and lockdowns, urging residents to make their sacrifices so far “count for something” and ensure they are not “frittered away with another lockdown”.
“And when I say another lockdown, probably multiple lockdowns. Because a third wave would be even more challenging than the second, it just will be,” he warned.
“We have got to stay on this. See it off, finish properly, open up and stay open. That is what I’m aiming to do, and that is what I am spending literally every moment focused on.”
Mr Andrews also lashed “selfish” protesters who continue to protest against restrictions.
“It’s not safe to protest, it’s not smart to protest – it is selfish,” he said.
“It is unlawful … Any behaviour from anyone that contributes to more virus not less is in nobody’s interest.”
Meanwhile, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton confirmed during Sunday’s press conference that gyms would be one of the last businesses to be allowed to reopen due to “high risk” associated with them.
“Gyms are a known high risk setting. They cause outbreaks,” he said.
“They are still high risk inherently because of the exertion that people are undergoing at the gym and the fact that it is an indoor setting.
“But boot camps are different and obviously we want to encourage those outdoor activities on those principles that it is a much, much lower risk to do anything outdoors.”
He said he believed Melbourne residents would be able to travel within the state once there had been an average of five cases per day for a 14-day period.