BENDIGO Easter Fair looks set to return in 2022 after the Victorian Government announced the lifting of almost all COVID-19 restrictions from 11.59pm tonight.
A buoyant Premier Dan Andrews announced on Thursday that Victorians would return to a pre-COVID normal life as close as possible - back to the days before the pandemic struck in March last year.
Under the plan, almost all density and capacity limits will be scrapped in hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and cafes while indoor and outdoor events can host a fully vaccinated crowd of up to 30,000.
City of Greater Bendigo mayor Andrea Metcalf welcomed the news, saying it provided a glimmer of hope for the return of the Bendigo Easter Fair after the event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
"In regards to events, the announcements are very encouraging," Cr Metcalf said.
"We know events drive tourism to our region, so the idea of being able to host events with tens of thousands of people again is exciting for us.
"For those in our community wondering if this means a return of events like the Easter festival, we are very hopeful that a near-normal version of the event will be able to run in 2022."
Cr Metcalf said council would need some time to look at what the exact requirements were for staging events under the changed restrictions.
"However, we are optimistic that Easter and many other significant major events now look more likely to return next year," she said.
The state government's announcement yesterday was well deserved for the Bendigo community, according to Cr Metcalf.
"I congratulate our community on rolling up their sleeves," she said.
"Everyone's efforts right across the state mean we can welcome these new freedoms from tomorrow.
"To reach the 95 per cent double dose target this week for eligible people in the Bendigo region was simply brilliant and something we can be proud of."
Be.Bendigo chief executive officer Rob Stephenson was equally delighted about the changes.
"We're very excited on behalf of our members about the opportunities this creates," Mr Stephenson said.
"The run-up to Christmas is an important time for businesses and taking off the caps allows hospitality venues to be fully operational again."
Mr Stephenson said while there may still be a way to go before face masks no longer have to be worn in indoor retail settings, the easing of restrictions do give people the confidence to to go out shopping and browse.
"Our members will be excited to get back to normal. It's great," he said.
Now that hospitality venues can operate at full capacity, the rush is on to re-open and cater for the anticipated demand heading into summer.
However, the major issue facing these venues is a chronic staff shortage.
Employees exited the industry in droves over the past 18 months as COVID-19 restrictions severely limited the operations of pubs, restaurants and cafes, forcing staff to seek employment outside hospitality.
One solution to fill the shortfall could be school leavers.
"VCE exams finish this week so there may be young people looking for an opportunity to get into hospitality," Mr Stephenson said.
"They will have skills transferrable into hospitality so there's great opportunity for students wondering what to do next to get out into casual jobs and see what great careers are available in the industry.
"We've had the City of Gastronomy happening along behind the scenes over the last 18 months due to COVID but there's a chance to pick up that stimulus and really promote it among young people."
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