Victoria’s State of Emergency and State of Disaster have been extended for another four weeks as Premier Daniel Andrews announces a further $3billion in grants to support businesses which have been crippled by his lockdown.
The embattled state recorded a further 41 COVID-19 cases on Sunday and seven new fatalities, taking the death toll to 723 for the length of the pandemic.
In spite of the clear trend downwards, Mr Andrews has refused to let up on the draconian measures, which include a nightly curfew and strict gathering restrictions.
Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said the extension of the State of Emergency, which will now last until at least October 11, was crucial for the implementation of necessary COVID-safe guidelines.
‘The State of Emergency ensures we have all the tools we need to fight this virus – keeping all of us safe,’ she said.
Meanwhile Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
‘Extending a State of Disaster is never a decision we make lightly – and it won’t be in place a moment longer than it needs to be,’ she said on Sunday.
‘We are at a critical point right now. And we have to do everything we can to hold onto the gains we’ve made, which means giving Victoria Police everything they need to enforce the Chief Health Officer’s directions as we keep driving down cases.’
The financial rescue package will inject up to $1.1billion into small and medium sized businesses that are most affected by coronavirus restrictions.
A further $251million will be dedicated solely to support bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs and hotels which have been decimated during the two lockdowns.
The Licenced Venue Fund will provide grants of up to $30,000 to venues, while the government has also waived liquor license fees for 2021.
‘For our state to recover, we need our businesses to recover too. As we take our first safe and steady steps towards COVID Normal, this support will help make sure we get through this together,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘We’ll continue meeting with and listening to businesses, so we can do everything we can to support them and their workers.’
From Monday, the city of Melbourne will move from the strict Stage Four lockdown into the first step of the roadmap toward reopening.
While modest, the changes will allow for more time outdoors and social interactions.
Mr Andrews said if numbers were kept low the state could open with ‘real confidence’ and keep them low.
‘You can open up and stay open,’ he said. ‘That is what we want and that is what we will deliver.
‘That is what we will deliver in regional Victoria and right across metropolitan Melbourne, not bouncing in and out of lockdowns, but making sure that everything that Victorians have given counts for something and delivers us, as I said, a summer that will be like no other.’
People living alone or single parents will be able to invite one other person into their homes.
Mr Andrews said he would allow ‘social bubbles’ even when exercising outdoors, which will now be extended to up to two hours per day – which can be split over two sessions.
Playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment will reopen, and Melbourne’s 8pm lockdown has been pushed back to 9pm.
Regional Victoria will also enjoy the loosening of several restrictions after successfully stemming the spread of the virus.
Up to five people from two separate households will be able to gather in public places, while outdoor pools and playgrounds will also open.
Religious services will be able to go ahead with up to five people.
‘What we’ve seen in regional Victoria should give hope to all Victorians. If we all play our part, we can drive numbers down and get through this together,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘I’m so proud of Victorians for the way we are all working together to beat this virus – it means we can take our first safe and steady steps towards a COVID Normal tonight.’
Victorians living in regional communities have also been given hope that these restrictions could be further lifted in a matter of days.
MELBOURNE’S ROADMAP OUT OF COVID-19 LOCKDOWN – WHAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO AND WHEN:
Step one: The first step will come in to place on September 13.
Step two: The second step will be implemented when Melbourne has 30-50 COVID-19 cases a day on average over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on September 28.
Step three: The move to step three will occur when there is a daily statewide average of five new cases over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on October 26.
Step four: The move to step four will come when there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on November 23.
COVID Normal: After 28 days of no new COVID-19 cases, things will return to normal.
Step one – 11.59pm on September 13:
– Curfew will be eased to 9pm-5am
– People can still only leave home for the four reasons (shopping, exercise, work and care or medical attention)
– Public gatherings increased to two people, or a household, for a maximum of two hours
– Singles can have one nominated person to their home as part of the ‘singles social bubble’
– Childcare and early educators to remain closed
– Schools will continue to learn remotely unless they have exemptions
– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, unless they have exemption
– Only go to work if you are in a permitted industry
– Cafes and restaurants will continue with take away only
– Retail businesses will remain open for essential shopping, with others only operating with click and collect
– Only one person per household can do the essential shopping
Step two – September 28:
– Public gatherings increase again to five people from a maximum of two households
– Childcare and early educators can re-open
– Schools to continue with remote learning, but Prep to Grade Two and Year 11 and Year 12 students will gradually return to class in Term 4
– There will be an increase to permitted workplaces
Step three – October 26:
– Curfew is no longer in place
– There are no restrictions on leaving home
– Public gatherings increase to 10 people together outdoors
– A ‘household bubble’ will be introduced, so five people from one house can visit another
– Remote learning to continue, but Grades 3 to Year 11 can gradually return to class
– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, but hands on classes will see a phased return to onsite
– Work from home is encouraged
– Up to 10 people can eat together at restaurants and cafes, with the majority of tables outdoor
– Retail shops to reopen, with hairdresses operating under safety measures but beauty stores to remain closed
– Real estate agents can conduct private inspections by appointment
– The one person per household limit on shopping is to be revoked
Step four – November 23:
– Public gatherings to increase to 50 people outdoors
– Up to 20 visitors can attend a home at any one time
– All adult education will return to onsite with safety measures in place
– Groups limited to 20 indoors and a maximum of 50 patrons per venue
– All retail stores to reopen, while real estate agents can operate with safety measures and by keeping a record of attendants
Step five – COVID normal:
– Public gatherings have no restriction
– There will also be no restriction on visitors to homes
– Phased return to onsite work for work from home workers
– Schools to reopen as normal
– Restrictions on hospitality removed, but venues to continue keeping records