Melbourne residents flock to parks and bars after months of house arrest in strict lockdown

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Residents in Melbourne have crowded parks and bars to enjoy their first weekend of freedom after months of being locked in their homes in Australia’s strictest coronavirus restrictions.

Melburnians flocked to parks, tennis courts, restaurants, shops and pubs on Saturday as Victoria once again recorded no new cases of coronavirus.

From midnight on Tuesday the shackles of Premier Daniel Andrews’ strict restrictions were loosened a little, allowing people to drink a pint, chow down on a steak, or get some retail therapy.

‘We need to enjoy our lives after three months of really constrained activity,’ Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said at a press conference on Saturday. 

Patrons crowded at bars around the city, including Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby races were being televised on Saturday (pictured)

Patrons crowded at bars around the city, including Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby races were being televised on Saturday (pictured)

Bookies and patrons watch the Derby Day races at the Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby Day races were being televised

Bookies and patrons watch the Derby Day races at the Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby Day races were being televised

Locals dining out and enjoying picnics at the Botanical gardens in Melbourne on Saturday (pictured) as restrictions finally eased after three months in lockdown

Locals dining out and enjoying picnics at the Botanical gardens in Melbourne on Saturday (pictured) as restrictions finally eased after three months in lockdown

Hundreds of people went to restaurants and bars to celebrate the weekend ahead of the Melbourne Cup.

The usually wild Derby Day still went ahead, but without the crowds of punters.

Social distancing rules meant the racecourse, which typically attracts crowds in excess of 300,000 across the four race days during the week, was deserted with just essential staff, jockeys and officials on site. 

Patrons crowded at bars around the city, including Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby races were being televised on Saturday.  

Meanwhile, city streets were alive on Saturday with staff and businesses eager to get customers in for the weekend rush.  

Families now have the ability visit each other at home, but only one household can visit another household per day.

The 25km travel limit remains in place and outdoor gatherings are still capped at 10 people, though there is no limit on the number of households involved.

At Treasury Gardens in central Melbourne scores of police formed a ring in response to a small gathering of protesters believed to be objecting to mandatory mask-wearing.

Melburnians flocked to parks, tennis courts, restaurants, shops and pubs on Saturday as Victoria once again recorded no new cases of coronavirus (pictured, the city's Botanical Gardens)

Melburnians flocked to parks, tennis courts, restaurants, shops and pubs on Saturday as Victoria once again recorded no new cases of coronavirus (pictured, the city’s Botanical Gardens)

Police prepare to confront anti-government protesters at Treasury Garden in Melbourne on Saturday (pictured) as locals rallied against the continuing restrictions, which have left thousands out of work

Police prepare to confront anti-government protesters at Treasury Garden in Melbourne on Saturday (pictured) as locals rallied against the continuing restrictions, which have left thousands out of work

Patrons at the Commons Ormond Collective pose for a photo where the Derby Day races were being televised on Saturday (pictured in Melbourne)

Patrons at the Commons Ormond Collective pose for a photo where the Derby Day races were being televised on Saturday (pictured in Melbourne)

A patron places a bet with a bookie at the Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby Day races were being televised

A patron places a bet with a bookie at the Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby Day races were being televised

Footage from the scene showed at least one man being arrested, but police confirmed there had been a total of 21 arrests throughout the day.

Health Minister Martin Foley issued a brief response.

‘At the moment protests that spread the risk of the virus are not safe.’

The arrests were made for a range of offences including not wearing a mask, breaching public gathering directions and travelling more than 25km from their homes.   

Premier Daniel Andrews also celebrated over the weekend taking his first day off on Saturday after giving 120 daily press conferences in a row.

The premier told reporters on Friday: ‘I will not see you tomorrow. The minister for health will conduct the daily briefing and I’m sure you’re all very pleased to hear that news.’ 

Footage from the scene shows at least one man being arrested, but police confirmed there had been a total of 21 protests

Footage from the scene shows at least one man being arrested, but police confirmed there had been a total of 21 protests

From midnight on Tuesday the shackles of Premier Daniel Andrews' strict restrictions were loosened a little, allowing people to drink a pint, chow down on a steak, or get some retail therapy. A general view of a socially distanced outdoor cafe in Melbourne on Saturday

From midnight on Tuesday the shackles of Premier Daniel Andrews’ strict restrictions were loosened a little, allowing people to drink a pint, chow down on a steak, or get some retail therapy. A general view of a socially distanced outdoor cafe in Melbourne on Saturday

Outdoor diners are seen having lunch at the Botanic Gardens on the first weekend of freedom in Melbourne (pictured)

Outdoor diners are seen having lunch at the Botanic Gardens on the first weekend of freedom in Melbourne (pictured)

Hundreds of people went to restaurants and bars to celebrate the weekend ahead of the Melbourne Cup (pictured), enjoying a televised Derby Day

Hundreds of people went to restaurants and bars to celebrate the weekend ahead of the Melbourne Cup (pictured), enjoying a televised Derby Day 

Residents in Melbourne have crowded to parks and bars to enjoy their first weekend of freedom. A group of artists wearing masks are seen painting outdoors as a group of police officers walk past (pictured at Treasury Gardens on Saturday)

Residents in Melbourne have crowded to parks and bars to enjoy their first weekend of freedom. A group of artists wearing masks are seen painting outdoors as a group of police officers walk past (pictured at Treasury Gardens on Saturday)

Mr Andrews made headlines around the world with his lengthy conferences during Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus. 

The pressers – which sometimes ran up to two hours – became such a fixture that a Twitter account with the handle @WhatTimeIsDansPresser, which informed Victorians when the premier would appear, went viral.

Melbourne was finally released from lockdown at midnight on Wednesday after businesses were shut for 15 weeks to slow the spread of the deadly disease. 

A single new coronavirus case recorded in Victoria was reviewed and rejected.

‘So that’s a donut day,’ Dr Sutton tweeted on Saturday afternoon. 

Earlier during a press conference, Dr Sutton flagged that the case recorded from a hospital patient could be a ‘false positive’ and that an expert panel was reviewing it.

Social distancing rules meant the racecourse, which typically attracts crowds in excess of 300,000 across the four race days during the week, was deserted with just essential staff, jockeys and officials on site

Social distancing rules meant the racecourse, which typically attracts crowds in excess of 300,000 across the four race days during the week, was deserted with just essential staff, jockeys and officials on site

Members of Victoria Police look on at Flemington Racecourse during Derby Day despite there being no punters

Members of Victoria Police look on at Flemington Racecourse during Derby Day despite there being no punters

A group of artists are seen wearing masks are seen painting outdoors at Treasury gardens on Saturday

A group of artists are seen wearing masks are seen painting outdoors at Treasury gardens on Saturday

Young families are seen playing in the park at Treasury Gardens on Saturday as people celebrate their time out of the house

Young families are seen playing in the park at Treasury Gardens on Saturday as people celebrate their time out of the house

Police are seen patrolling a park in Melbourne on Saturday ensuring people keep wearing masks and stay socially distances

Police are seen patrolling a park in Melbourne on Saturday ensuring people keep wearing masks and stay socially distances

The state has 70 active cases of the virus and attention is focusing on business returning to normal.

Some Melbourne office workers could be back in place before Christmas as Victoria’s COVID-19 numbers remain low.

‘If we can see that these chains of transmission are in check, then there is a reasonable chance – a slow and steady – gradual return to the workplace,’ Professor Sutton said.

Workers would not be able to be ‘packed into offices’ and there were some concerning elements, including public transport and elevator use, that needed to be considered, he added.

‘If the numbers remain low then those risks become much less in the office space as well,’ Prof Sutton said.

‘Some (workers) can and should return, but always depending on the numbers. Clearly there’s an economic activity by virtue of return-to-work, especially here in the CBD, and that should be a consideration.’

For some Victorians, ‘it will be a changed workforce forever’, the expert noted, adding that many employers had already started making long-term arrangements.

Melbourne tried to go back to normal on Saturday with people going out to bars to watch televised viewings of Derby races

Melbourne tried to go back to normal on Saturday with people going out to bars to watch televised viewings of Derby races

Angelina Beninati (left), Lee Cleal (centre) and Matcho Suba (right) pose for a photo at the Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby Day races were being televised

Angelina Beninati (left), Lee Cleal (centre) and Matcho Suba (right) pose for a photo at the Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby Day races were being televised

Patrons at the Commons Ormond Collective pose for a photo where the Derby Day races were being televised on Saturday

Patrons at the Commons Ormond Collective pose for a photo where the Derby Day races were being televised on Saturday

The field makes their way onto the track ahead of race eight the Kennedy Cantala during 2020 AAMI Victoria Derby Day

The field makes their way onto the track ahead of race eight the Kennedy Cantala during 2020 AAMI Victoria Derby Day

‘For people who are comfortable and happy and can be supported to work from home, that’s not an unreasonable thing to embed ongoing.’

Saturday’s health department figures included the single ‘low positive’ case.

‘They are in a specialist ward. It’s fair to say they weren’t admitted for suspected COVID but they’ve had testing because of those compatible symptoms,’ Prof Sutton said.

Melbourne has reported a daily case average of 2.4 for the fortnight up to Friday.

Authorities continue to investigate two mystery cases, for which there is no known source.  

Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus – which has killed about 800 people – sparked with outbreaks at two quarantine hotels in May and June.

The state government has faced criticism for manning the hotels with private security guards instead of police or troops offered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

An inquiry into what went wrong will release its final report on 21 December.

Patrons crowded at bars around the city, including Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby races were being televised on Saturday

Patrons crowded at bars around the city, including Commons Ormond Collective where the Derby races were being televised on Saturday

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