Yesterday was a bright day for regional Victoria.
Delivering the news we’ve all been waiting for, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that regional Victoria will move to step three of the roadmap, where the limits on reasons for leaving the home are removed thus ending lockdown across regional Victoria.
In the initial announcement of Victoria’s roadmap to COVID normal announced earlier this month, Andrews revealed that restrictions in regional Victoria would be eased when it records a 14-day daily case average below five, and zero cases with an unknown source for 14 days.
Yesterday, the state recorded a 3.6 14-day average for regional Victoria, meeting this criteria and allowing the move to step three of the roadmap, having only moved to step two at the start of the week.
“Regional Victoria will be opening up in just the next 24 hours or so. It is a massive thing. It is a very positive thing. It is something we should all be very pleased and proud of the job that regional Victorians have done,” Andrews revealed in yesterday’s press conference.
“This will be welcomed, I’m sure, and there’s no greater evidence to the people of Melbourne that these strategies, getting numbers low, is possible, and it is essential. You have no chance of keeping numbers low once you open up if you don’t first get them low via the restrictions and the rules we have in place. This is a credit to everyone in regional Victoria. I am proud of you. I am grateful to you.”
While a relief for many, there is a little bit to dissect about what we’re now allowed to do in step three of the COVID roadmap, differing slightly from stage two restrictions back in June.
Here’s what you need to know:
When does Step Three come into effect?
Premier Daniel Andrews has announced regional Victoria will move to “step three” of the roadmap out of lockdown from midnight on Wednesday 16 September.
When can I leave my house?
The only restriction on leaving home is that you cannot travel into areas with higher restrictions, which includes metropolitan Melbourne. Likewise, people from metro Melbourne cannot come into regional Victoria. Those caught will face a hefty $4957 fine under the offence ‘failure to comply with requirement to remain in restricted area’, which comes into effect tonight.
Otherwise, there are no restrictions on reasons for leaving your house or on where you go within the state.
Public gathering allow up to 10 people outdoors. This means picnics in the park, walks, outside workouts and bootcamps of up to 10 people, hikes, etc. Again, social distancing regulations and basic hygiene are required.
Visit to your home are only allowed within the ‘household bubble’. This one is where it gets a bit awks. Regional Victoria are allowed to create a ‘household bubble with one nominated household allowing up to 5 visitors from that household at a time (infants under 12 months of age are not included in the cap).
The bubble requires that you choose the same other household for the duration of the step. The bubble is an exclusive arrangement – you cannot have a household choose you and you choose a different household. Members of a share house can only choose one other household, noting the five-person visitor limit. So, prepare for some fun discussions with that one!
The ‘household bubble’ does not apply to gatherings outside the home, and aims to balance coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission risk and wellbeing of Victorians. It’s therefore crucial that households chose another household that they can trust.
You can read up more on the social single bubble here, for which many rules will be the same as the household bubble.
Can you be in household bubble and see an intimate partner?
Yes, you can have an intimate partner and be in a household bubble. An intimate partner is independent of a household bubble.
If your intimate partner is at your home with you, they do not count towards the total of the five allowed visitors from your household bubble.
Do we still need to wear a mask?
The statewide mandatory mask policy brought into effect last month requiring all residents to wear a mask or a face covering whenever they’re out of the home still applies.
People with a medical reason are exempt from wearing a mask, as are children younger than 12. Those who have a professional reason “or if it’s just not practical, like when running” are also exempt, but those people will still be expected to carry a face covering at all times.
Residents in Victoria caught out without a face covering face a $200 fine.
You can read more about the rules surrounding masks here.
What’s going on with schools?
From 5 October, Year 11 and Year 12 students can attend onsite for the General Achievement Test (GAT) and essential assessments. Year 10 students who are doing VCE and VCAL can also attend onsite essential assessments.
From 5 October, primary school students will commence a staggered return to on-site learning.
From 12 October, all secondary school students will commence a staggered return to on-site learning.
Childcare centres remain open while adult education remains restricted, with students encouraged to learn from home if they can unless onsite for hands-on, skills-based learning is required.
The deets about work, retail, personal services
The directive from the state government is still to work from home if you can.
In regards to retail, all open shops can reopen, but now without customer limits.
Hairdressers, tattoo parlours and beauty servers are also open, but only where a mask can be worn for the duration of the service.
For real estate, private inspections by appointment only, auctions outdoors subject to gathering limits (10 people).
So, is the pub open?
Dan is letting us get on the beers!
Hospitality businesses will be able to serve patrons outdoors, with a cap of 50 seated patrons per venue, and an updated ‘two square metre’ density limit in place.
Indoors, venues can open with a cap of 10 seated customers per space – with up to two spaces per venue – and in line with the existing ‘four square metre’ density rule.
Tables must be spaced at least 1.5m apart, cleaned after every customer and the details of all patrons must be kept. There will be a two-hour limit on bookings for groups of less than 10 people.
What are the rules for exercise?
Outdoor non-contact sport can resume for adults. Non-contact sport is any sport where you can maintain 1.5 metres between yourself and others while playing. You can play sport with the number of people required to play plus necessary coaches and umpires. Spectators are not allowed.
Outdoor sport can resume for people who are 18 years of age and younger. This includes contact sport. You can play sport with the number of people required to play plus necessary coaches and umpires. Spectators are allowed if they are supervising children or supporting players with additional needs, while maintain gathering limits of less than ten people.
Outdoor exercise is also now allowed for groups of up to 10 people. Outdoor skateparks have also opened.
Indoor gyms and sports facilities are still closed.
Can I travel?
Restrictions on travel within regional Victoria have been eased, with people now allowed to travel within the state, with the exception of areas with higher restrictions (metro Melbourne). This includes being able to book accommodation with the people you live with, your intimate partner, or the household you have formed a bubble with.
Tourist accommodation will reopen, but exclusively for regional Victorians travelling and holidaying within regional Victoria. Caps and density limits still apply, however.
Can I travel through Melbourne if I’m in regional Victoria and want to visit family also in regional Victoria?
Yes, you can travel through Melbourne if it is for the purpose of visiting friends and family, holidaying, or other activities that are permitted in the Third Step.
You should not stop in Melbourne except to buy necessary goods and services, for care and compassionate reasons or permitted work. While in metropolitan Melbourne you must comply with the metropolitan Melbourne restrictions.
Ceremonies and special occasions
Weddings will be allowed with up to 10 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant)
Funerals will allow up to 20 people (infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit).
Outdoor religious gatherings for up to 10 people plus a faith leader can go ahead, while places of worship open for private worship for households or social bubbles, plus a faith leader.
How about events and entertainment?
Some outdoor entertainment and attractions including zoos, drive-in cinemas and open air attractive will be allowed to resume if they have COVIDSafe Plans in place and in line with other restrictions, including density limits.
What’s the go with elective surgeries?
Important elective surgeries will resume across Victoria’s regional public and private hospitals as soon as tomorrow and in metropolitan Melbourne from the end of September, as revealed by Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos.
The plan will see regional Victoria increase to 75 per cent of usual elective surgery activity from tomorrow and 85 per cent from 28 September.
Hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne will begin to ramp up to 75 per cent of usual activity from the 28 September, when they enter the Second Step of the roadmap, and 85 per cent of usual activity when they move to the Third Step.
All Victorian hospitals will move to 100 per cent of usual activity when the state moves to the Last Step to COVID Normal, planned for 23 November. This plan will allow for around approximately 18,750 additional elective surgeries across our private and public hospitals in October and an extra 10,500 surgeries in November.
During the Third Step, most dental and allied health services will be able to recommence with a COVIDSafe plan, with some limitations still in place on group therapy for allied health.
When will we move to the next step?
Subject to public health advice, from 23 November if we get to zero new cases state-wide for 14 days, we can move to the Last Step.
Visit the Department of Health and Human Services for more information.