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Step by step: regional Victorian roadmap out of COVID restrictions released

Update: there were 55 new cases of COVID-19 overnight and eight deaths. 

The State Government has announced a roadmap to begin easing Victoria out of its current COVID-19 restrictions to a ‘COVID Normal’, with four steps between now and a return to most activities and events expected by the end of the year.

The plans come as the state recorded 41 new cases on Monday, Victoria’s lowest daily infection rate since June 26.

Regional Victoria, which has been in stage three restrictions since August 5, has continued to record a lower number of cases compared to Melbourne, with 95 active in regional areas on Monday and only one active case in local shires in the Pyrenees.

To account for the regional/ metro difference, two roadmaps, one for regional Victoria and one for metropolitan Melbourne — which has been in stage four since August 2 — were released on Sunday.

The roadmaps work off ‘steps’, with four steps and a final ‘COVID Normal’ phase outlined by Premier Daniel Andrews at the weekend.

“By moving from stages to steps, we’re giving Victorians a long-term plan for our path out of restrictions and into COVID Normal,” he said.

“Importantly, we want the whole of the state to be at COVID Normal by the end of the year — making sure family barbecues, summer holidays and a trip to the beach can all still happen.”

With lower infection rates, Step Two will begin in regional Victoria from 11.59 pm this Sunday, September 13, with Step One only applying to Melbourne.

COVIDSafe principles will continue to apply throughout the steps including wearing a face mask and physical distancing.

Step Two will see only minor changes to current restrictions:

• There will continue to be four reasons to leave home — for school or work that cannot be done from home, care or caregiving, purchasing essential items, and exercise.

• Up to five people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors in a public place, such as a park, for social interaction (infants under 12 months are not included in the cap).

• Visitors will still not be allowed at residents’ homes, however those who live alone and single parents will be able to have a ‘single person bubble’ — they can nominate one person who can visit them at home.

• Schools will begin a phased return to on site learning from term four (with safety measures).

• Outdoor pools and playgrounds will open.

• Religious services can be conducted outside with a maximum of five people, plus a faith leader. Weddings are allowed with up to five people (including the couple, celebrant and two witnesses) while funerals will be allowed with up to 10 people (not including people required to conduct the funeral).

• Outdoor exercise and recreation will be allowed and childcare will be open to all children.

• Restaurants and cafes will continue to provide takeaway and delivery only.

Moving to Step Three, which would see significant changes to restrictions, will be determined by public health advice rather than dates.

Regional Victoria can move to Step Three when the daily average number of active cases in the last 14 days in regional areas is less than five, and when there are zero cases in regional Victoria with an unknown source in the last 14 days.

Mr Andrews said that target could be reached within a few weeks.

“We think regional Victoria will be able to move to the third step quite soon, it’ll be perhaps a matter of weeks,” he said.

Under Step Three there will be no restrictions on reasons to leave home, up to 10 people can gather outdoors, and residents will be allowed to create a ‘household bubble’ with one nominated household, allowing up to five visitors from that nominated home to visit at a time.

Hospitality will open for predominately outdoor seated service only (with patron limits) and all retail will be open except beauty/personal care (hairdressers will continue to open).

The Last Step will also begin based on public health advice, but the roadmap advised it can start after November 23 when there are no new cases for 14 days across all of Victoria.

The Last Step will see restrictions ease even further including that up to 50 people will be allowed to gather outdoors, residents can have up to 20 visitors at their home, hospitality will be open for seated service and galleries, museums and other entertainment venues can open (with some restrictions).

Once there are no new cases for 28 days, no active cases state-wide and no outbreaks of concern in other states and territories Victoria will move from the Last Step to COVID Normal.

COVID Normal will mean there are no restrictions on how many people can gather in public (although event organisers are encouraged to keep records of attendees), no restrictions on visitor numbers to resident’s homes, all hospitality and retail will be open, no limits on weddings or funerals (but organisers are encouraged to keep records of attendees), and galleries, museums and other entertainment venues can all open with safety measures and record-keeping.

Metro Melbourne will move at a slightly different pace to regional areas — Step One will begin this Sunday and see the current curfew reduced by an hour to run from 9 pm to 5 am, residents living alone and single parents can also create a ‘single person bubble’ and outdoor exercise will be extended from one hour to two.

Step One will remain in place until at least September 28 and moves to next steps will be based on public health advice.

For more information on regional Victoria and Melbourne’s roadmaps visit www.vic.gov.au/roadmap.