With regional Victoria’s new restrictions, can I visit my partner?

With regional Victoria’s new restrictions, can I visit my partner?

The affected local government areas are Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac Otway, and Queenscliff.

Yesterday marked a dark day for Victoria’s battle against coronavirus, recording 723 new coronavirus cases, signalling a new daily record, almost 200 cases higher than the previous record of 532 cases recorded on Monday.

Also marking the deadliest day of the pandemic so far with 13 new deaths recorded, the numbers today don’t make for easy reading, with another 627 new COVID-19 cases and eight more deaths. This brings the total number of cases recorded in the state since 1 January to 10,625. Australia only hit 10,000 cases nationally 16 days ago, on 14 July.

While there are currently crisis talks about the immediate future of Victoria, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews yesterday revealed updated information for regional Victoria in a bid to stop the virus further seeping into the rest of the state.

Face coverings have been mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire since last week, and now the Premier has also announced that same requirement will apply across regional Victoria. From midnight on Sunday, 2 August, all Victorians will be required by law to wear a face mask whenever they are outside of their home.

New restrictions on visitors have also come into place across parts of regional Victoria from midnight last night, 30 July, revealing that residents in Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac-Otway and the Borough of Queenscliffe will not be allowed visitors in their homes.

The restrictions raised some confusion among residents about why this and not that. Why you can have dinner together at a restaurant – but not at a mate’s place, and one of the biggest queries relates to partners and whether they will be able to visit each other.

Following some clarification, it can be confirmed that partners have the go-ahead and exemptions continue to apply for care and caregiving reasons. If you live in one of these regional areas, these restrictions will travel with you.

When it comes to catching up with friends, no visitors are permitted in your home. Outdoor gatherings are allowed but social distancing must be maintained – so if you want to go for a walk or a jog with a friend or have a picnic in the park with some mates, you can certainly do so.

You can however still attend pubs, restaurants and cafes with your mates, as venues will be allowed to stay open. They will still be governed by the same social distancing and requirements, with up to 20 seated patrons per enclosed space.

Community sport in regional Victoria and in its LGAs can continue as previously communicated, as can attending the gym, but residents cannot host weddings or funerals in their homes.

Mr Andrews said like many things in the pandemic, this “may seem counter-intuitive”, but it was based on the data and reflected the more relaxed behaviour of people inside their own homes.

“[Hospitality venues] are controlled environments. Having friends over to your house is not a controlled environment,” Mr Andrews said.

“If the data said that this was being transmitted in cafes, restaurants, pubs then we would shut them. That’s not what the data tells us.

“I can’t rule that out in the future but I don’t want to get to that.”

Residents of metropolitan Melbourne’s 31 local government areas (including the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Ranges) plus the adjoining Mitchell Shire, which includes the towns of Seymour, Kilmore, Broadford and Wallan, must continue to abide by stage three lockdown rules. These means there are just four reasons to leave your home for essential work or study; for essential shopping; to give or receive care or receive medical assistance; and for exercise.

Alongside the above, there are also some important things to clarify about the face coverings mandatory for all of regional Victoria. Acceptable coverings include surgical masks and cloth masks, as well as scarves, bandanas or other materials, offering some barrier to droplets that may carry the virus.

The same lawful exemptions that currently apply in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, will apply across Victoria. These include if you have a medical condition or other condition that impairs your ability to wear a face covering, doing strenuous exercise or if you are unable to do your job while wearing a face covering.

Wearing a face covering protects you and your community by providing an additional physical barrier to coronavirus (COVID-19).

People who do not wear face coverings and do not have a lawful excuse can be fined $200.

As in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, masks will be made available to schools and vulnerable people living in regional Victoria.

Children who are under the age of 12 years old do not need to wear a face covering. Children who are two years or younger must not wear face coverings as they are a choking and suffocation risk.

Guidelines will be developed about how wearing a face covering applies in different settings in regional Victoria so stay tuned for an update.

The community are urged to report report non-urgent crime and events, as well as breaches of the Chief Health Officer’s directives, by calling the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or submitting an online report at police.vic.gov.au/palolr.

Stay home and stay safe. Lives are counting on it.

You can find more information here and at the Department of Health and Human Services.