Have you been left a little confused about the different steps involved in the roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions?
Have the new rules made the path even more complicated than it initially was?
We will try and break down the current situation in regional Victoria and provide some direction as to what awaits.
What is the situation now?
For the rest of this week (up until 11.59pm on Sunday, September 13) nothing changes.
As per the last five weeks, we remain under stage three restrictions.
This means there are only four reasons for you to leave home:
- to shop for food and necessary goods or services
- to provide care, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
- to exercise or for outdoor recreation
- for work or education, if you can't do it from home
What changes next week?
As of Monday, September 14, regional Victorians will advance to what has been dubbed the "second step".
It should be noted that "steps" and "stages" are completely separate, an issue which has led to some confusion.
Under the second step there are not many changes to the average person's day-to-day life.
Among the main changes will be:
- the allowance of public outdoor meetings between five people, involving just two households
- people living alone/single parents can have one nominated visitor into their home. This person cannot change throughout the second step
How do we get to the 'third step'?
The path to the third step relies solely on science.
There are two figures we need to reach in regional Victoria to advance to the third step.
- We need to achieve less than five new regional cases over a rolling average of 14 days (see graph below)
- There needs to be zero unknown cases detected in regional Victoria for 14 days
What changes will there be in in the 'third step'?
Under the third step, we will be able to live a more social life, although many businesses will still be severely affected.
Travel restrictions within regional Victoria will be eased, reasons to leave home removed and larger outdoor gatherings allowed.
The key changes include:
- No restrictions on reasons to leave home
- Gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors
- You can have five visitors to your home, although they must from the one household that has been selected as your 'household bubble'. Your 'household bubble' cannot change. Infants under 12 months are not included in this figure.
- Outdoor hospitality venues will be able to open but with group limits of 10, as well as other density rules
- Accommodation venues to open, but with household bubble restrictions
- Weddings: allowed with up to 10 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant).
- Funerals: allowed with up to 20 people (not including infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral).
- Religion: outdoor religious gatherings for up to 10 people plus a faith leader are allowed, facilities open for private worship for households or social bubbles, plus a faith leader
- Real estate: private inspections by appointment only, auctions outdoors subject to gathering limits.
- Exercise: Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for under-18, outdoor non-contact sport only for adults, with gathering and density limits, outdoor skateparks open, outdoor fitness for 10 people.
How do we get to the 'last step' or 'fourth step'?
This is likely to be one of the main points of contention in regional Victoria.
In essence, regional Victorians will likely have to wait for metropolitan Melbourne to catch up in terms of the COVID-19 situation.
Even if there is scant evidence of COVID-19 in the regions (or none at all), it will depend on Melbourne.
In order to advance to the "last step", there will need to be no new cases throughout the whole state of Victoria.
Importantly, we will also not be able to advance before November 23.
This is likely to generate angst in the regions if there are continually cases in Melbourne but not beyond.
What changes will there be in in the 'last step'?
The last step will involve the further reopening of society.
It will also be the biggest date for businesses to be able to open their doors.
The biggest rule changes will include:
- Public gatherings: up to 50 people outdoors.
- Visitors to the home: up to 20 visitors at a time
- Hospitality: indoor (group limit of 20 and seated service, cap 50 patrons), outdoor dining subject to density quotient
- Retail: all open.
- No exercise restrictions. facilities open subject to safety measures. Organised contacts sports resume for all ages. Limitations for spectators.
- Weddings: allowed with 50 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant), 20 in a private residence.
- Funerals: allowed with 50 people (not including infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral), 20 in a private residence.
- Religion: public worship (not including private ceremonies e.g. baptism, bat mitzvah) can resume in outdoor and indoor settings subject to density quotient.
The final step, what is 'COVID normal'?
There is no date set on this yet, but it will relate strongly to the amount of virus that remains in the state.
Premier Daniel Andrews has made it no secret he wants this to be our situation for Christmas.
It seems a long way in the distance at the moment, but in order to advance to "COVID normal", there will need to be:
- no new cases for 28 days (statewide)
- no active cases (statewide)
- no outbreaks of concern in others states or territories
You can see the full regional government plan here.