After what officials and residents called a “Long Winter” of coronavirus restrictions, and the reporting of zero new coronavirus cases in Victoria, Melbourne’s many retail and hospitality industries will be opening up once again.
This report marked the first time since June 9 that no new cases had been detected.
As part of a two-phase plan to reopen the city beginning on Wednesday, restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels will open for business once again on Wednesday. However, there will still be a capacity limit of 20 customers indoors and 50 people outdoors in these establishments.
Now, up to 20 people may also attend outdoor religious ceremonies, with one faith leader holding services.
In what comes as another welcome relief for many, hair and beauty salons and other personal services may now resume operation, and personal training and fitness and dance classes may resume once again, albeit with a limit of ten people — and all classes must be held outdoors.
Outdoor contact sports, such as rugby, may resume, along with all non-contact sports in which adults participate. Outdoor pools may also be used once again as along as the number of swimmers is fewer than 50.
Libraries and other such entities which serve the community, along with all outdoor entertainment venues, may also reopen for outdoor events.
Weddings may also be held once again but there will be an attendance limit of ten people. Up to twenty people may now attend funerals.
Although the government continues to urge all citizens to work from home if at all possible, employers which are not on the permitted list may now reopen as well.
Premier Dan Andrews stated, however, that the 25-km (15-mile) travel limit outside the city will remain for another two weeks, saying “We don’t want a situation where people are travelling the length and breadth of the city and we don’t want a situation where people are attracted to places of great beauty.”
“We don’t want everyone down on the Mornington Peninsula or everybody at the 1000 steps or in the Dandenongs. There would be a crowd we would never say yes to.”
However, the strict protocols surrounding visits to friends’ and relatives’ homes will not be lifted at the present time, as Andrews stated “The most dangerous environment for the spread of this virus is in your home. When you have visitors, you let your guard down, and they go back to their house, they have visitors — and all of a sudden there are chains of transmission that spread silently and very quickly.”
Further Easing of Rules Expected in November
The Minister added that additional restrictions will be lifted on November 9 if the current positive trend continues, and he foresees that the travel ban, often called a “ring of steel,” will be lifted at that time.
“The metropolitan Melbourne regional border will go … the state (of Victoria) will be one again,” he said.
“For the purposes of travel and movement, COVID-safety will still be critical, following the rules will still be critical — but that little extra time means that we can align both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria at that time.”
He added that the November phase, if all goes to lan, will mean that pub and restaurant capacities will increase, going up to 40 individuals indoors and 70 people outdoors. All religious services and gatherings will also be allowed to have 20 worshippers indoors and 50 outdoors.
Indoor pools will also be able to host up to 20 swimmers at a time.
However, the rules surrounding the wearing of face coverings will continue as is, with mandatory mask use, including in gyms, the rule across Victoria. People will also continue to be urged to work from home if at all possible.
“Let’s Melbourne Again”
Australian Premier Scott Morrison had warm words for the lifting of the strict coronavirus protocols, saying that he was proud of Victorians for how they adhered to the draconian rulings during their lockdown, and praising the “patience and perseverance” of all the citizens of the state.
“After a long winter, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Victorians.”