Melbourne’s 9pm curfew will finally be lifted tomorrow night after the state recorded just 16 new cases and far fewer in past weeks than expected.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced major changes to the roadmap out of lockdown at his daily press conference on Sunday.
How fast the state reopens will be determined by how many cases there are, instead of dates set ahead of time – as progress is faster than expected.
‘It means that getting back to the things we love – seeing more of the people we love – not only is achievable, it’s in our hands,’ Mr Andrews said.
However, Mr Andrews also enormously increased the fine for breaking any coronavirus rules to $5,000 – well up from $1,600.
Rules on face masks are also more restrictive with scarves, bandannas and similar banned and face shields must also be worn in conjunction with a mask.
Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to tweak lockdown restrictions on Sunday following better-than-expected progress in fighting the spread of coronavirus
Melbourne will on Monday move to its second phase of reopening, scrapping the curfew from 5am on Monday and loosening other restrictions.
Weddings can have up to five people and religious worship can happen outside with five people plus a person leading the service.
Private home inspections can resume, and primary school students will go back to school on October 12 – as will apprentices and final year university students for needed in-person training and assessments.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Allen Cheng said Melbourne University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute suggested primary school children were at a ‘lower risk of getting and spreading infection’
‘This is not to say that they can’t get infected or they never get unwell but their risk is lower and it is particularly important when community rates of infection are low, as they are at the moment,’ he said.
‘This new modelling suggests relatively safe to return students to primary schools in the first weeks of term 4.’
Childcare centres and early child education will reopen, allowing essential workers to get back to work and those working from home some peace and quiet.
Jim’s Mowing boss Jim Penman may call off his frequent attacks on Mr Andrews as gardening and landscaping for sole traders can resume.
Pet grooming will also restart, a welcome relief for anyone whose furry friend’s coat is in desperate need of maintenance.
Up to five people from two households can gather for group exercise, but are still forbidden from visiting each other’s homes.
However, they can visit sick or elderly family and friends in hospital or nursing homes one at a time for two hours a day.
Those lucky enough to have a hiking trail or body of water within 5km of their home can go fishing or hiking for their exercise.
Outdoor pools will open, with strict distancing requirements, but sport like tennis and golf is still banned.
Essential workers can also exercise near work instead of home, but must carry their working permit on them.
Abattoirs, seafood and meat processing plants which had their production slashed to a third can now ramp back up again to 80 per cent.
‘With spring lamb, carving and other seasonal factors, not to mention that Christmas is coming… we are pleased to be able to lift those percentages of workers,’ Mr Andrews said.
Factories can also go back to 90 per cent of their pre-lockdown capacity. These are all subject to complying with coronavirus safe plans.
Overall, about 127,000 staff across Melbourne will be able to go back to work on Monday.
Police outnumber citizens in Melbourne as they are still only allowed outside for two hours of exercise and the curfew remains in place
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said his public health team made the recommendation to scrap the curfew.
He said it was no longer a ‘proportionate measure to have in place’.
‘We always said that aged care cases would be a stubborn tale of this epidemic curve,’ he said.
‘That remains the case but it does mean that not an insignificant proportion of our daily cases are in aged care and the curfew doesn’t address that transmission risk, obviously.
‘Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we have talked about 21 mystery cases but really we are getting to one to three community cases per day.’
Under the original plans to take effect from Monday, the 9pm curfew would remain, as well as the 5km travel limit and takeaway-only for restaurants and cafes.
The Victorian opposition had calling for rules to be loosened well beyond this, saying the curfew should go, all school students should return and restaurants, retail and offices should re-open.
Victoria also suffered another two deaths in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, taking its total to 784.
The number of new cases and deaths is up from Saturday’s total of 14 cases and one death.
The two-week rolling daily case average of 23.6 is well under the 30-50 case average health authorities were aiming for.
For the first time in months, there are no active cases in regional Victoria, which had its lockdown lifted a few weeks ago.
It has been a dramatic few days in Victorian politics culminating in the resignation of Jenny Mikakos as health minister on Saturday morning.
By the afternoon, Daniel Andrews had announced mental health minister Martin Foley as her replacement and he was sworn in.
Ms Mikakos’ resignation came a day after she heard her boss tell the hotel quarantine inquiry board she was responsible for the Department of Health and Human Services, which was ultimately responsible for running the quarantine scheme.
The hotel quarantine program in Victoria failed because private security guards breached infection control, causing the spread of the virus into the community and a devastating second wave.
To date, 784 Victorians have died of the virus and the entire state has been subject to strict lockdowns, workforce and school closures and prolonged social isolation.
‘I have never wanted to leave a job unfinished but in light of the premier’s statement… and the fact there are elements in it that I strongly disagree with… I cannot continue to serve in his cabinet,’ Ms Mikakos wrote.
‘I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined. I am deeply sorry for the situation that Victorians find themselves in.
‘In good conscience, I do not believe that my action led to them.’
Ms Mikakos will also be resigning from the Victorian parliament.
The premier, like all leaders who came before the $3 million inquiry, told the board on Friday he did not know who made the decision to use private security guards.
He pushed back on suggestions from reporters on Saturday that he should also resign, saying he would not run from a challenge and remained focused on fighting the pandemic and repairing the state’s economy.