Regional Victoria moved from Stage Three to Step Two on its roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday night, and could be on track for Step Three before the end of the week according to Premier Daniel Andrews.
While there are still only four reasons to leave home — school or work that cannot be done from home, care or caregiving, to purchase essentials, and exercise — and hospitality can still offer takeaway services only, Step Two has seen some changes to restrictions, including:
• 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 of age are not included in the cap).
• People 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 make a staged return to onsite learning from term four (with safety measures).
• Outdoor pools and playgrounds are now open.
• Places of worship are still closed but outdoor gatherings (not ceremonies) of up to five people are allowed, plus a faith leader.
However, regional areas could be ready to move to Step Three in the coming week.
To move to Step Three, in the past fortnight the daily average number of new cases in regional areas must be less than five and there must be zero cases with an unknown source.
As of the latest data on Monday, the average number of cases diagnosed in the last 14 days in regional Victoria was 3.9.
On Tuesday, the rolling average was 3.6.
As of Tuesday, the number of cases in regional Victoria with an unknown source was one.
In his daily update on Monday, Premier Andrews said regional Victoria is “on the cusp” of moving to Step Three.
“There’s an opportunity for regional Victoria to take yet another step in just a few days’ time if these trends continue,” he said.
“That’s proof that this is not a theoretical exercise, it’s a strategy that is working and to see regional Victoria is down to 3.9 (average) cases means they’re on the cusp of taking the next step.
“We’re very pleased to think we’ll be able to take those big but safe steps towards opening regional Victoria up.”
Step Three would be a significant step for businesses and communities as there will be no restrictions on reasons to leave home or distances traveled, up to 10 people can gather outdoors, residents will be able to create a ‘household bubble’ with one nominated household allowing up to five people to visit from that home at a time, hospitality will open for predominately outdoor seated service and accommodation can open with restrictions.
While beauty services (not including hair dressers) were initially not allowed to open until the Final Step of the roadmap, Premier Andrews announced on Saturday that they can now open under Step Three.
“Following further considerations in public health advice, I can announce that beauty and personal services where a mask can be worn for the entire time that the person is getting the services they are accessing, will be able to proceed in the third step,” he said.
Case numbers remain low not just regionally but across the state, with 35 new cases overnight to Monday, with a total 1075 still active.
There were six more deaths overnight, bringing the total lives lost to the virus in Victoria to 729.
There continued to be no new active cases in local government areas including the Central Goldfields, Mount Alexander, Hepburn and Loddon shires and the Pyrenees officially became free of its one active case over the weekend.
Melbourne areas that were under stage four restrictions are moving along a slightly different roadmap to regional Victoria, entering Step One on Sunday night which also saw minor changes including the introduction of the single person bubble, the curfew reduced by an hour to 9 pm to 5 am, and outdoor exercise was 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.