Victoria delays easing restrictions to tackle COVID-19 resurgence

Victoria delays easing restrictions to tackle COVID-19 resurgence

A sharp rise in COVID-19 cases has prompted the Victorian Government to take a harder line on home visits and postpone an increase in patron numbers for venues by three weeks.

After 25 new cases were reported in the state overnight, Premier Daniel Andrews said medical experts had advised Victoria was at a "critical crossroads".

In response, as of 11:59pm tomorrow the number of visitors allowed in someone's home will be cut to five.

"Outside the home, families and friends can meet in groups up to 10. As we've seen across the world, this virus has the ability to turn a few cases into hundreds in a matter of days," Andrews said.

"That's why we also need to delay an increase to gathering limits in businesses and community facilities."

The government was previously planning to allow up to 50 people inside restaurants, cafes and pubs - with a maximum group size of 20 people - on 22 June, but that date has now been changed to 12 July.

These changes will also apply to auction halls, community halls, libraries, museums and places of worship.

"Businesses that were set to open on Monday like gyms, cinemas, theatres and TABs can do so -  but again, only with a maximum of 20," Andrews said.

"Community sport for kids and non-contact competition for adults can proceed as planned. Ski season and accommodation facilities with communal spaces will also open, but with increased screening and safeguards in place."

Medical experts have told the government the numbers are largely being driven by families, with big get-togethers where advice around social distancing and hygiene has not been followed.

"In fact, around half of our cases since the end of April have come from transmission inside someone's home," the Premier said.

"You can see how this could happen. People feeling relaxed at home. Letting their guard down. Letting old habits creep back. But we are still in a pandemic - and people's lives are still at risk.

"Today, our case numbers have hit the highest they've been in more than two months. I know that's not what people want to hear but sadly, that is our reality."

The situation in Victoria demonstrates the state is not out of the woods yet, and as this virus spreads exponentially there is always potential that similar circumstances could take place elsewhere.

"If you do have to see people, keep your distance. No handshakes and no hugs. Maintain good hygiene. Don't share food or drinks. And if you're feeling unwell - stay at home," Andrews advised Victorians.

"Don't visit friends and family. Don't go on holiday. Don't go to work. Stay home."

To make it easier for people to comply with the rules, the state government is also announcing a $1,500 payment for those who have a confirmed case or are a close contact and who can't rely on sick leave.

"This is about making sure there's no financial reason for these people not to isolate and to go to work instead," he said.

"I know businesses are keen to open further - which is why we've all got to play our part.

"That means ensuring those who can work from home continue to do so at least until 31 July. And if you do have people on the job - having a zero-tolerance approach to sickness. Having symptoms must mean you go home, and you get tested.

"The vast majority of Victorians have been doing the right thing. But this is a wake-up call. We cannot be complacent. And the only thing between us and a second wave is what we do next."

Updated at 5:21pm AEST on 20 June 2020.

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