As restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus were re-installed in Victoria this week after previously beginning to ease, the call for regional communities with low case numbers to follow a different set of restrictions to metropolitan areas has grown.
Restrictions have been slowly easing since mid-May and were set to ease even further from Monday this week when a spike in case numbers over the weekend led to Premier Daniel Andrews reversing some rules.
While the number of visitors allowed in a household had previously sat at 20, from Monday that number was reduced to five. Restaurants and cafés were also expected to be allowed to seat up to 50 in-house diners but have continued to be limited to 20.
However, the majority of new COVID-19 cases have come from hotspots in Melbourne suburbs with no new cases recorded in the Central Goldfields or surrounding shires for weeks, prompting calls for a separate set of restrictions for regional areas.
Member for Ripon Louise Staley is leading the local push to open up country Victoria and said the State Government has taken a “one-size- fits-all” approach to restrictions.
“We haven’t seen a case of COVID-19 in Maryborough for weeks, but Daniel Andrews has shown that he thinks what is good enough for Melbourne is good enough for regional Victoria,” she said.
“What the government should be doing is rather than imposing a one- size-fits-all approach, it should be opening up our regional economies for local people.
“For Maryborough, and regional areas that have had no cases, we have to start looking for ways to allow locals to have a meal out or go to the pub. This way we can support our local businesses and get our communities back working again.
“I’ve called for the working from home rule to be lifted in regional areas because that doesn’t bring people from outside into the region, it gets the people currently at home back in the streets, ordering lunch and coffees and helping the hospitality industry.
“It’s not a case of building a wall around country Victoria, it’s about allowing places that have no cases to open up a bit more.”
Committee for Maryborough chair Windsor Main said while he would support easing restrictions in regional areas, caution is required.
“I would support an easing of restrictions in our areas, with an increase support for those businesses to ensure they are COVID safe and have all measures in place to stay safe, but I feel caution is required,” he said.
For more on this story see Page 3 of The Advertiser, Tuesday, June 23