Melburnians were supposed to be waking up on Monday morning with a raft of new freedoms as part of the Victorian Government’s road map out of lockdown – but the city has missed its case target for that to happen.
Now, they will have to wait until Sunday – when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has earmarked “significant changes” to lockdown restrictions – to see how their lives will play out after the lockdown to curb numbers in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nobody knows for certain what those changes will be; even the Premier claims the decisions aren’t finalised until the numbers are crunched.
However, the expansion of the 5km movement restriction to 20km is expected to be one of the crucial new freedoms handed back to Melburnians, with modelling understood to be completed today.
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The state’s deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng hinted at the relaxation on Thursday.
“There’s models being run as we speak and they should be off the computer in the next day or so. It does take a little bit of time to do. We’re considering all sorts of things in making those decisions,” Prof Cheng said.
The current restriction, which prevents Melburnians travelling further than 5km from their house, has been in place since August 2.
While the other easing measures are anyone’s guess, two of Australia’s leading epidemiologists have suggested the rules they think could be eased.
Australian National University’s Peter Collignon and University of New South Wales’ Mary-Louise McLaws told theHerald Sunit was “likely” that outdoor public gatherings of up to 10 people could be allowed, while it was possible that home visits of up to five people from one household may be allowed.
“We know that if we are outdoors, the risk of spread is markedly lower. Curfews and 5km limits are a pretty broad brush – they might have some relevance if you have 700 cases a day (but not now),” Prof Collignon told the newspaper.
They say Melburnians should be able to do outdoor exercise and activities like boating and fishing as long as they wear masks and follow social distancing.
They also say schools could be reopened for all students, hospitality venues could be allowed to have seated service – predominantly outdoors – with limits on group numbers (10), indoor patrons (20) and outdoor patrons (50), and outdoor sport for under-18s could resume.
However, they cast doubt on everything else including shops reopening, limits at funerals and intrastate travel.
Despite the planned easing Mr Andrews is copping criticism for maintaining such strict measures in his state while NSW, which has recorded a similar number of new cases in recent days, remains open for business.
Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said yesterday that Victoria no longer qualifies as a coronavirus hotspot, and restrictions in Melbourne should be eased.
“It’s just a fact that NSW has not had 4278 mystery cases across the pandemic as it’s unfolded,” Mr Andrews retorted.
“They’ve not had the virus get into some of the settings that have been typical of this second wave.
“What I would say is on Sunday, we’re going to be able to take some steps, we’ll be closer to the NSW position than we have been for months.”