News

COVID-19 restrictions loosen from next Sunday for regional Victoria

By Charmayne Allison

Gatherings of up to five people will be allowed in outdoor public places while single parents and people living alone will be able to nominate a friend or family member to visit them, as part of eased restrictions in regional Victoria from next Sunday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed five-step reopening roadmaps today, which will guide metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria back to "COVID Normal".

Regional Victoria will emerge from stage three restrictions in a week, heading straight into the "second step" of the roadmap.

Meanwhile, Melbourne will remain under stage four coronavirus lockdown until at least October 26 but some restrictions will be eased from next Sunday as part of the roadmap's first step.

In regional Victoria, from 11.59 pm on Sunday, September 13, a "bubble" will be created, allowing single parents or people living alone to nominate a friend or family member to visit them.

Up to five people will be able to gather together in outdoor public places –  from a maximum of two households.

"By limiting it to two households, we’re again limiting the virus’s ability to spread," Mr Andrews said.

Outdoor pools and playgrounds in regional Victoria will also open.

Religious services can also be conducted outside with a maximum of five people, plus a faith leader.

Schools and students will begin a staged return to onsite learning 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.

In regional Victoria, all students will return to onsite learning between October 12 and 16.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, VCE and VCAL students and Prep to Grade 2 will also return for onsite learning from October 12.

Mr Andrews said once regional Victoria reached less than five cases on average over 14 days and zero cases with an unknown source over 14 days, it will move to the third step of the roadmap.

As part of this step, there will be no restrictions on reasons to leave home, or on the distance travelled.

Up to 10 people will be allowed at outdoor public gatherings, while larger "household bubbles" will be permitted of up to five visitors from another nominated household.

Restrictions will also loosen on hospitality, with predominantly outdoor seated service allowed, with group limits of 10.

There will also be a phased return of outdoor under 18 contact and non-contact sport - only non-contact sport will be allowed for adults.

Twenty people will be allowed at funerals, while 10 people will be allowed at weddings.

"It will be perhaps a matter of weeks before regional Victoria can move to a very different range of settings compared to metropolitan Melbourne," Mr Andrews said.

The fourth - and final - step of reopening will occur from November 23, if there are no new cases of COVID-19 statewide.

Public gatherings of 50 people will be allowed outdoors, while up to 20 visitors will be allowed in homes.

As for hospitality, indoor groups will be capped at 20, and there will be a cap of 50 patrons.

All retail businesses will reopen, including beauty and personal care services.

All four steps will aim to guide Victoria back to "COVID Normal" - this will start when no new cases occur for 28 days, plus there are no active cases statewide and no outbreaks of concern in other states and territories.

As part of COVID Normal, most restrictions will be dropped subject to safety conditions, and there will be a phased return to onsite work for those who have been working at home.

While stage four restrictions will remain in place in Melbourne another two weeks, from September 14 the nightly curfew will start an hour later at 9 pm, instead of 8 pm, and run until 5 am.

As in regional Victoria, people living alone will be also able to nominate a friend or family member who can visit them.

Two hours of daily exercise will also be allowed, increasing from the one hour currently permitted.

Further restrictions in Melbourne could be eased from September 28 and the government will consider lifting the curfew entirely from October 26.

Victoria recorded 63 new cases of coronavirus and five deaths today.

Anyone who is unwell with any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild (such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell), should get tested immediately and stay at home.

For more information, phone the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 or visit www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus