Victorians will be out to celebrate after Premier Daniel Andrews announced an easing of restrictions will come into effect for Melburnians from 11.59pm on Tuesday night, with long-awaited reopenings for retail, restaurants, cafés and bars.
So-called "dark openings" for staff to prepare their COVID-Safe businesses for reopenings will be allowed on-site straight away, while on 11:59pm on 8 November the metropolitan-regional border will be removed.
The State Government was able to make the decision after pending tests from Melbourne's northwestern suburbs came back negative.
"I'm able to say now is the time to open up," Premier Andrews said.
Under the third step from midnight tomorrow, the state capital will move from "stay home" to "stay safe", with no more restrictions on the reasons to leave home.
Pubs, clubs and restaurants will be limited to a limit of 50 outdoors and 20 inside. Density limits, record keeping and COVID-Safe Plans also apply.
Gatherings will no longer be limited to just two households, but groups cannot exceed 10.
"Weddings will increase to a maximum of 10 people, funerals will increase to a maximum of 20 mourners," he said.
"In terms of faith gatherings...indoor there'll be a maximum of 10 people plus one faith leader; outdoor there will be a maximum of 20 people plus one faith leader."
Andrews explained the 25-kilometre limit would remain in place until the next step comes into effect on 9 November when the "state will be as one again".
When that date comes, restaurants, hotels, cafés and bars will then move to an indoor maximum of 40 people with 10 people per space, while outdoor will have a maximum of 70 outdoor with a limit of one person per two square metres.
At that point, other regulations for Melbourne's outdoor gatherings, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and other events will be aligned with regional Victoria.
"Accordingly in Melbourne, gyms and fitness studios will reopen on the 8th [of November] - maximum of 20 people, a maximum of 10 people per space, density of one person per eight square metres," he said.
From this Wednesday, outdoor contact sport for those aged 18 and under will also begin again, along with non-contact sport for adults.
Personal trainer, fitness and dance classes can also be held outdoors with up to 10 people, and the number of people at outdoor pools can increase to 50, subject to density limits.
"Libraries and community venues will be able to open for outdoor events. Outdoor entertainment venues can also begin hosting visitors," the Premier added.
Andrews emphasised COVID-19 was still a threat despite the low numbers.
"It's not over. This virus will continue to be a feature of our lives until a vaccine is found," he said.
"There cannot be a bending of rules. There cannot be a search for loopholes.
"Until a vaccine comes there will be no normal, only corona-normal."
Commonwealth Government welcomes Victorian announcement
In a statement following the announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Fydenberg and Minister for Health Greg Hunt issued a statement describing the news as a "reflection of the dedication and effort of Victorians".
"Victorians have worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get to this point. We thank them for their patience and perseverance," they said.
"After a long winter, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Victorians.
"As we said yesterday - Victorians have made great progress in reducing the rate of COVID-19 infections from the second wave outbreak in Victoria."
The Federal Government representatives highlighted Victoria was now moving towards Step 1 under the new National Framework plan released last week.
"The new National Framework to reopen by Christmas is a clear and transparent, three step national plan which provides the Australian community and businesses with a way forward where Australians can live and work in a COVID Normal Australia, ensuring that we maintain strong health protections and minimise job losses and mental health impacts," they said.
"Australia has been a world leader in fighting the virus to save lives and to save livelihoods and with today's announcement, we look forward to Victoria continuing to make progress on the path to reopening and joining the rest of the country at Steps 2 and 3 in the national plan.
"It will be important for the Victorian Government to provide even more clarity to Victorians in the coming days and where restrictions do not have a health basis that they are removed quickly."
The plan to develop a national framework by Christmas was agreed upon by the Commonwealth and all states and territories except Western Australia.
"Western Australia did not agree to the National Framework for Reopening, specifically the domestic border and international arrival proposals," the National Cabinet said in a release at the time.
"The Framework will establish an updated Common Operating Picture with strengthened criteria to ensure that health systems are prepared and detailed information is publicly available on COVID-19 conditions.
"The criteria take into account the National Hotel Quarantine Review by Ms Jane Halton AO PSM and will be informed by further work underway by Australia's Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO on digital contact tracing and public health systems, and advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)."
Updated at 4:17pm AEDT on 26 October 2020.
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