With all of Victoria's 10 new cases of community transmission in isolation for their entire infectious period, the state will move to leave lockdown from 11.59pm tonight but many restrictions will remain in place.
Notably, Victorians will not be allowed to welcome visitors to their homes, while crowds will remain banned at AFL matches and theatres. But after living through the state's fifth lockdown, residents are sure to welcome the raft of changes announced today.
The new post-lockdown settings will be in place for two weeks, and will see the five reasons to leave the home, the 5km travel limit and the two hour exercise restrictions ditched.
Instead, more relaxed restrictions will come into effect including:
- Schools will reopen for all year levels
- Bars, restaurants, live music venues and pubs will reopen with the 4sqm rule in place
- Gyms can reopen with the 4sqm rule in place
- Community sport can resume
- Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people
- Funerals and weddings can go ahead with 50 people in attendance (excluding people who are intrinsic to the event going ahead)
- Masks must be worn in both indoor and outdoor settings
- Crowds will remain banned at AFL matches, the theatre, etc.
- Gatherings in the home are still not permitted. People will only be able to book accommodation with their household, intimate partner or single bubble person.
Victoria will return to the rule that 'if you can work from home, you should work from home' but office workers will be able to return up to 25 per cent or up to 10 people - whichever is greater.
People will be free to visit ski fields again, but due to the higher risk in these settings entry to Victoria's alpine resorts will require a COVID test and receipt of a negative result within 72 hours prior to visiting. Children under 12 years of age are not required to be tested.
In addition, new border control measures will come into play from 11.59pm today and will see the state's strict "Extreme Risk Zone" permit approach currently applied to most of New South Wales extended to the local government areas of Wagga Wagga, Hay, Lockhart and Murrumbidgee.
This means travellers from those areas will be banned from entering Victoria unless they receive an essential traveller permit.
"There's a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so therefore I have no choice but to make these changes," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
"We have seen off two Delta outbreaks - I don't think there's a jurisdiction in the world that has been able to achieve that.
"But at the same time we have to remain vigilant."
With regard to the continued mandate that masks be worn in all settings outside the home, Andrews pointed to a recent report from the Burnet Institute which found mask wearing was the single-most important control measure and "turned the epidemic around" in Melbourne last year.
Co-lead author Dr Nick Scott said the introduction of mandatory mask use by the Victorian Government on 22 July 2020 while Stage 3 restrictions were in place, turned an exponential increase in community transmission into an exponential decrease, almost overnight.
"We had a unique situation in Melbourne where masks were made mandatory as a single policy change, and compliance went from low use to a very high use of masks in the community very rapidly," Burnet Institute head of modelling and biostatistics Dr Scott said.
"What we saw was a significant 20-30 per cent reduction in the effective reproduction rate that correlated with that policy, so it turned the epidemic around from case numbers that were increasing every day to a situation where we could see the numbers were getting back under control."
In response to the news, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra welcomed the end of severe restrictions in Victoria which would have cost around $2 billion in retail trade.
However, Zahra has called on the Federal Government to urgently reinstate business support measures to offset mounting losses of continued Delta outbreaks.
"This has been an unprecedented time with lockdowns occurring across multiple states without an adequate business safety net, leaving many businesses and their employees with mounting debts and costs while having their income cut off," Zahra said.
"With Delta we are potentially facing another economic cliff. Small businesses around the country face continued hurdles as the Delta variant threatens commercial operations particularly in NSW, which is our economic capital.
"We have called on the Prime Minister to restore a number of targeted business support measures until vaccination rates improve considerably."
Updated at 11.43am AEST on 27 July 2021.
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