Opening up: Melbourne on Saturday
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has hinted officials could raise cap limits and density quotas higher than initially planned for some industries, as the state celebrates its fifth straight COVID-free day.
Victoria did not record any fresh cases or deaths on Sunday, and active cases continued to tumble.
The state also reported no new infections on Saturday, with an expert panel reclassifying one case as a false positive.
‘Another very good day for Victoria,’ said Deputy Premier James Merlino on Sunday, filling in for state leader Daniel Andrews.
Back-to-back days without adding to Victoria’s virus tally coincides with the first weekend of Melbourne cafes, restaurants and pubs reopening to walk-in customers.
More restrictions are due to ease next Sunday including the scrapping of the so-called ‘ring of steel’ dividing the city from the regions, along with the 25km travel limit.
Although the encouraging case numbers won’t bring forward that date, Professor Sutton said authorities would mull over changes that went beyond those previously announced.
‘What allowances come on November 8 will absolutely be informed by what this week looks like,’ he said.
‘Some of the details might change … we can always make consideration of what caps might be in certain settings, what density quotients might be in those settings.
‘And some of the specific industries that might come on board in terms of being able to operate.’
Residents walk past a cafe after coronavirus restrictions were eased for the state of Victoria
When asked if that meant relaxing density limits for restaurants and cafes, Prof Sutton said: ‘Maybe not for hospitality, but it’s all on the board.’
The state’s virus death toll remains at 819 and the national figure at 907.
Melbourne only has a single mystery case without a known source to Thursday, while the city’s average daily case count for the fortnight up to Saturday is 2.2.
There are also just 61 active cases left across the state, down from 70 on Saturday.
Prof Sutton said Victoria could be down to ‘a couple of dozen’ active cases by next week.
Nearly 16,000 tests were taken in the past 24 hours, with Prof Sutton saying it verified Sunday’s result as a ‘true zero’.
Mandatory masks will remain a feature of Victorians’ daily lives for some time yet but that rule may be revisited with less virus circulating in the community.
Victoria free at last: What are the changes?
From Tuesday 27 October, 11.59pm
All retail, bars and restaurants open with 20 indoors and 50 outdoors
Beauty services and tattoo parlours open
Outdoor contact sport for under 18s back on and non-contact sport for adults
Four reasons to leave home removed
25km travel limit remains in place
Melbourne to regional VIC border remains
Outdoor gatherings up to 10 people
Gatherings can be of more than two households
Weddings increase to 10 attendees, funerals to 20
Church services open with 10 indoors and 20 outdoors
PT, fitness and dance classes can be held outdoors with up to 10 people
Number of people at outdoor pools can increase to 50, subject to density limits
Must work from home if you can
From 8 November
25km travel limit scrapped
Travel to regional VIC allowed
Retail, pubs and restaurants allowed 40 people indoors, 70 outdoors
Funerals allowed indoors with 20 and outdoors with 50
Non-contact sport for U18s allowed indoors
Gyms and indoor fitness will be able to reopen
Holiday accommodation to re-open
Religious gatherings will expand with up 20 people and a faith leader indoors, and 50 outside
‘Clearly we should be transitioning and we will be transitioning from universal mask-wearing to maybe indoors only, to maybe just high-risk settings, at the appropriate time,’ Prof Sutton said.
Ireland has called on Prof Sutton for advice on its Melbourne-style lockdown, hoping to learn from the city’s success.
Prof Sutton cited the worsening situation in Europe as a reason for Victorians to reflect on their hard-won gains.
‘What Europe is going through now is a consequence of not being able to get to this point where you can stay on top of very low numbers indefinitely,’ he said.
‘If you don’t get to that point, it all comes back in a tsunami.
‘To see 50,000 cases a day in France, to see Belgium sending patients outside the country because they’re so overwhelmed – that’s what we might have faced if we hadn’t been able to get on top of it.’
Meanwhile, the Victorian government announced it would hand out $200 vouchers to support children’s return to netball courts, football fields and cricket nets as part of a $45.2 million package.
Prof Sutton said Victoria could be down to ‘a couple of dozen’ active cases by next week