VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has thanked regional businesses for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has given little away about plans to further ease restrictions.
It comes following a plea for further freedoms outside of Melbourne, penned by a dozen organisations representing businesses in regional Victoria.
Be.Bendigo was among the organisations involved in the letter, which conveyed confidence around the readiness of businesses to safely re-open.
The Victorian Regional Chambers Alliance wrote that businesses understood it was in their best interest to go above and beyond when it came to not only preventing outbreaks, but maintaining clear records for contact tracing.
"We need to be confident in the ability to successfully operate alongside this virus by ensuring that we can provide our businesses with realistic parameters to work within, allowing them to keep staff employed and enabling them the best opportunity to recover financially," it said.
Be.Bendigo chief executive Dennis Bice said businesses were already doing a terrific job with what had been asked of them - something the premier himself acknowledged.
"Our view is that you can't keep regional Victoria locked down with what is happening at the moment," he said.
There are five active COVID-19 infections in regional Victoria - all in Mitchell Shire. A sixth case, from the Geelong area, is under investigation.
The 14-day rolling average for COVID-19 cases in regional Victoria is 0.4. Regional Victoria has no mystery cases.
The premier intends to announce further changes to restrictions on Sunday. But Tuesday's televised press conference did not detail the extent of those changes and how they might relate to regional Victoria.
Both Mr Andrews and Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton were questioned about easing restrictions. Both defended the state's approach.
Asked specifically about the Victorian Regional Chambers Alliance's two-page letter, the premier said: "Regional Victoria [has] low case numbers and we need to keep it that way, that that's why there are significant limits on the number of people who can travel to regional Victoria and the reasons they can do that."
He thanked regional businesses for the great job they had done and said: "the fact we haven't seen outbreaks... we haven't seen a really significant increase in the number of cases is proof positive that we're open and people are doing the right thing, both customers as well as businesses."
Story continues below Victorian Regional Chambers Alliance letter
Mr Andrews also responded to one of the concerns the letter raised - the risks surrounding upcoming social events, like the Melbourne Cup and AFL Grand Final.
"If people are unable to book into a venue due to small patron caps, it is inevitable there will be an increase in illegal private gatherings, creating potential issues regarding hygiene rules, social distancing or conducting adequate tracing - all of which are already well managed within venues, who have a proven track record during the previous restriction relaxations," the letter said.
"Venues are prepared now more than ever with policies and COVID safe plans in place."
Mr Andrews said there would be significant enforcement during those social events.
"If we want to keep regional Victoria open - and indeed take further steps - we all have to take this seriously and we all have to acknowledge that just as we get a benefit from it, we've all got to play a part," he said.
In addition to Bendigo, the Victorian Regional Chambers Alliance represented businesses in and around Wodonga, Hamilton, Geelong, Lakes Entrance, Apollo Bay, Horsham, Shepparton, Mansfield, Ballarat, Colac and Sale.
Mr Bice said the chambers of business banded together out of concern regional Victoria was not getting enough of a say in what was happening in the regions.
"We just felt we could have a bigger impact as a collective than we could as individual chambers," he said.
The alliance started with Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Wodonga.
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Covering general news and Bendigo council.
Covering general news and Bendigo council.
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