IT IS time to consider easing social distancing restrictions in regional Victoria, a Bendigo business leader says.
Daniel Cole hopes sweeping lock downs in Melbourne will contain major outbreaks and allow more central Victorian businesses to open.
"We need to start easing restrictions further to help hospitality businesses get back on their feet, and allow more people back into offices," he said.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Tuesday afternoon that 10 "hot spot" postcodes would re-enter stage three restrictions until at least July 29.
People in those postcodes will only be able to leave their homes for four reasons: for care or caregiving; to exercise; to buy food and other essential items; or to go to work or school.
Central Victoria has seen far less cases than Melbourne. There is only one active case in the region, according to Department of Health and Human Services data.
Mr Cole was part of a group of Bendigo business leaders who last week called for travel restrictions to protect central Victoria from fast-unfolding outbreaks in Melbourne.
He hopes health and government authorities will now consider allowing more workers back in to regional Victorian workplaces.
Bendigo Tourism Board chair Finn Vedelsby welcomed Tuesday's decision but was concerned about 20-person gathering limits.
Fifty-person limits were originally planned for last month but were scrapped statewide as authorities tried to contain the virus.
It made reopening unviable for some hospitality businesses in the region, Mr Vedelsby said.
"There were some bigger venues that had bookings and upcoming revenue but it will now not come in because of those changes," he said.
A government spokesperson understood people's frustrations but said the latest advice from Victoria's chief medical officer was to delay increases to gathering limits.
"We've seen it happen at get-togethers where someone unknowingly has the virus. We are going to see more cases if people don't do the right thing," they warned.
"We understand Victorians are frustrated, but we can't let this get away from us. We must act while we can."
Bendigo business person Adam Poyser said the premier's decision to lock down parts of Melbourne could not come soon enough.
"I would have liked to have seen it done much more quickly but I understand that the government wanted to see the data from the testing," he said.
That testing - thought to be the biggest and most comprehensive in Australia - involved 93,000 Victorians examined over five days in community centres, shopping centres and at their own front doors.
Mr Andrews said it had not been enough because people were still going out when they were sick or ignoring social distancing requirements.
Mr Poyser said Bendigo customers appeared to have been good at managing their hygeine.
"Our business is like everyone else in town. We have hand sanitising stations at every door and everyone, almost to a tee, uses it when they come in," he said.
Mr Poyser did not offer an opinion on whether it was time to ease restrictions further in central Victoria, but did say the premier's decision would make people in the region more confident to go out and shop.
"That might sound counter intuitive, but I know personally that I feel much more confident to go out and spend money in this community now," he said.
More business news:
Business advocacy group Be.Bendigo is digesting the latest announcement, which chief executive Dennis Bice said was disappointing but necessary.
He urged business members and the community not to let their guard down and allow an outbreak to take hold in central Victoria.
"No business wants to go backwards but we all have a responsibility to do the right thing and support local businesses," he said.
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