Regional Victoria will move to step three of its coronavirus reopening plan from Thursday, meaning sitting in a restaurant, meeting up to 10 people outdoors, kids’ sport and travelling for a holiday will all be allowed.
But masks will remain mandatory and there will still be tight restrictions on the number of people who can visit you at home.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the changes were possible because the daily average for new cases in regional Victoria was down to 3.6 and there had been no mystery cases for two weeks.
“I am absolutely delighted to be able to announce that regional Victoria, from 11:59pm tomorrow [Wednesday] night, will be able to take the third step in our safe and steady road map to COVID-normal,” Mr Andrews said.
“It’s a massive thing. It is such good news. I am so, so pleased and proud of every single regional Victorian who has stayed the course, followed the rules, got tested.”
Here’s what’s changing from 11:59pm on Wednesday.
Leaving home and socialising
There will no longer be any restrictions on the reasons to leave home.
You can go out as often as you want.
But there are still some restrictions on who you can meet and the size of the gathering — so no big parties just yet.
You can meet up to 10 people outdoors and create a household bubble with one nominated household.
Up to five people from that nominated household can then visit you at home (kids under 12 months of age are not included in the cap).
You can only choose one household to be in your bubble for as long as regional Victoria remains in the third step.
And this is where it might get awkward. It has to be “an exclusive arrangement”, meaning if another household chooses you to be in their bubble, you can’t choose a different household to be in your bubble. It has to be reciprocal.
It’s even more complicated for share houses.
Your share house can only choose one other household to be in its bubble. Each resident cannot create their own bubble.
Cafes and restaurants
Hospitality will be able to offer table service again.
Cafes and restaurants can seat people in groups of up to 10, but it will be subject to density limits and seating will be mostly outdoors.
Mr Andrews said there would be a two-hour time limit on all bookings.
Indoor spaces will be limited to 10 patrons, subject to a density rule of 4 square metres per person.
A maximum of two separate indoor spaces will be allowed to open per venue, meaning larger venues could seat a total of 20 patrons indoors — 10 in each room.
But outdoor areas will be allowed to seat more people and have them closer together.
“The risk of infection is dramatically higher inside,” Mr Andrews said.
The maximum number of patrons in an outdoor area will be 50, subject to a density rule of one person per 2 square metres.
Tables will need to be 1.5m apart.
Retail, real estate and beauty services
All shops can open.
Hairdressers, tattoo parlours and beauty services can resume as long as a face covering can be worn during the procedure.
“Every single business across regional Victoria will be required to have a COVID-safe plan and those plans will be enforced from September 28,” Mr Andrews said.
Real estate agents can conduct private inspections and hold auctions outdoors, but there will be limits on how many people can attend.
Travelling around Victoria
People in regional Victoria will be able to travel to other regions and book accommodation.
But travel to Melbourne is not allowed until both metro and regional areas are on the same restriction level.
With the weather warming up, many people are asking about campgrounds with shared bathrooms and national parks, but the Premier didn’t have a definitive answer on that at this morning’s press conference.
“I’m not sure where we’ve settled on where and when. I’ll come back to you with some rules,” he said.
“Lots of detail will need to come forward in the next 12 hours.”
Weddings and funerals
Weddings will be allowed with up to 10 people. That cap includes the couple, two witnesses and a celebrant.
Funerals can be held with up to 20 people but infants and people required to conduct the funeral are not included in the limit.
Sport and exercise
Outdoor skateparks will reopen.
Bootcamps and other outdoor fitness groups can be held with up to 10 people.
Outdoor junior sport is also allowed, for both contact and non-contact sports.
But for adults, only non-contact outdoor sport is allowed. Gathering and density limits will apply.
‘The strategy is working’, Premier says
Mr Andrews said regional Victorians had done “a mighty job” to get case numbers down.
There were no new cases recorded in regional Victoria yesterday, and there are now just 43 active cases.
“This is a day of hope and optimism. This strategy is working,” Mr Andrews said.
“It has worked in regional Victoria. It is working in metropolitan Melbourne.”
Mr Andrews said public health teams would monitor regional Victoria closely and use the data “to inform the early steps and subsequent steps that we will take in metropolitan Melbourne”.
“This is a big step … but it is a safe step,” Mr Andrews said.
“And one that can strike that balance between more economic activity, more money in the till, more people back at work, but not risking having to close down again, not risking frittering away all the hard work that regional Victorians have done.”