LAND OF THE FREE

New 25km travel limit, gath­er­ings of 10 out­doors GF party ban, anger at re­open­ing de­lays for shops, pubs, restau­rants

Herald Sun - - FRONT PAGE - TOM MINEAR

DANIEL An­drews has veered off the city’s re­open­ing road map, leav­ing shop own­ers, pub­li­cans and restau­ra­teurs in limbo for an­other fort­night even as move­ment lim­its are eased.

Af­ter 102 days in strict lock­down, from Mon­day Mel­bur­ni­ans can leave home as many times as they want each day, and travel up to 25km to see friends and fam­ily from one other house­hold in groups of up to 10 out­doors.

But Satur­day’s all-Vic­to­rian AFL Grand Fi­nal must be watched by mil­lions of fans in their homes, as pubs, bars and clubs will re­main shut un­til Novem­ber 2.

The Pre­mier said the de­ci­sion to keep busi­nesses closed — which sparked wide­spread anger — would be re­viewed daily, al­though it would not change be­fore the week­end.

Un­der the gov­ern­ment’s orig­i­nal road map, those busi­nesses had ex­pected to re­open by Oc­to­ber 26.

Po­lice will en­force the new out­door gath­er­ings limit, with groups of 10 re­quired to be clearly sep­a­rated from oth­ers. The new 25km travel bub­ble will be in place un­til Novem­ber 2, and Mr An­drews said it “may well be a fea­ture be­yond that”.

DANIEL An­drews has veered off Mel­bourne’s re­open­ing road map, leav­ing shop own­ers, pub­li­cans and restau­ra­teurs in limbo for an­other fort­night even as move­ment lim­its are eased.

From Mon­day, Mel­bur­ni­ans can leave home as many times as they want each day, and travel up to 25km to see friends and fam­ily from one other house­hold in groups of up to 10 out­doors.

But Satur­day’s all-Vic­to­rian AFL Grand Fi­nal must be watched by mil­lions of fans at home, as pubs, bars and clubs re­main shut un­til Novem­ber 2.

The Pre­mier said the de­ci­sion to keep busi­nesses closed — which sparked wide­spread anger — would be re­viewed daily, al­though it would not change be­fore the week­end.

Un­der the gov­ern­ment’s road map, those busi­nesses had ex­pected to re­open by Oc­to­ber 26.

Po­lice will en­force the new out­door gath­er­ings limit, with groups of 10 re­quired to be clearly sep­a­rated from oth­ers.

The new 25km travel bub­ble will be in place un­til Novem­ber 2, and Mr An­drews said it “may well be a fea­ture be­yond that”, de­spite the gov­ern­ment ini­tially plan­ning to re­lease dis­tance re­stric­tions by the end of this month.

But de­spite the in­crease, epi­demi­ol­o­gists have crit­i­cised the de­ci­sion.

“The 25km limit doesn’t stop trans­mis­sion so it doesn’t ac­tu­ally do much,” Pro­fes­sor Peter Col­lignon, of the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, said.

Masks are also likely to re­main manda­tory for even longer, af­ter the Pre­mier said the “low cost, high ben­e­fit” mea­sure had “played a mas­sive part” in con­tain­ing the Shep­par­ton clus­ter.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Michael O’Brien said that with Mel­bourne now in its 16th week of a planned six-week lock­down, Mr An­drews was mov­ing too slowly to re­open the city.

But Mr An­drews said: “These are the safe, steady steps that will see us out of this — and see us through to the other side.”

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son wel­comed the eas­ing of re­stric­tions but warned of the “heavy cost” to fam­i­lies and busi­nesses, and there was “a strong case” for busi­ness to open sooner.

“We un­der­stand and sym­pa­thise with the frus­tra­tion and con­cern ex­pressed by busi­nesses about the on­go­ing cost and im­pact on their jobs and liveli­hoods of this sec­ond wave,” the Prime Min­is­ter said in a state­ment with Trea­surer Josh Fry­den­berg and Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt.

The state gov­ern­ment’s five­case rolling av­er­age thresh­old to move to the next stage has been scrapped, and Mr An­drews in­di­cated the zero-case thresh­old for fur­ther changes in late Novem­ber would also be set aside.

“As the num­bers get very low, you do have to make that dif­fi­cult judg­ment — could this be as good as it’s go­ing to get — then make a pro­por­tion­ate de­ci­sion,” he said.

He said the “in­creased com­pli­ance ac­tiv­ity” would con­tinue into Novem­ber but he was still aim­ing to al­low Mel­bur­ni­ans to travel to re­gional ar­eas and in­ter­state by Christ­mas.

With just two cases recorded on Sun­day and Mel­bourne’s rolling av­er­age drop­ping to 7.5, busi­ness chiefs said there was “no sound rea­son” to keep shops and hos­pi­tal­ity venues shut.

“This is an in­ex­pli­ca­ble and un­ac­cept­able de­lay for Vic­to­ri­ans and small busi­nesses who are hang­ing on by a day, not a week,” Busi­ness Coun­cil chief Jen­nifer Wes­ta­cott said.

The Catholic Arch­bishop of Mel­bourne, Peter Comen­soli, tweeted he was “deeply shocked at the dis­par­ity im­posed on VIC’s faith com­mu­ni­ties today”. “Life, fam­ily & faith mat­ter,” he wrote on Sun­day, adding that he would “be press­ing the au­thor­i­ties on this lack of fair­ness and work­ing with faith lead­ers to have this ad­dressed asap”. Vic­to­ri­ans who can work from home are un­likely to re­turn to the of­fice this year, and Mr An­drews said that rule would “be a fea­ture for a while longer yet”.

THIS year has asked more of us — taken more from us — than any year, ever. But 2020 has also proven the in­cred­i­ble strength and courage of Vic­to­ri­ans.

We have stayed the course and, to­gether, we are de­feat­ing this virus. Other places around the world have not been so lucky.

In Au­gust we re­ported 725 daily cases. At the same time, the UK recorded 891. Yes­ter­day, as

Vic­to­ria recorded just two new cases, the UK hit 16,171. Its hos­pi­tals, like those in France, the US and so many other places, are buck­ling un­der the weight of their sec­ond wave. And as we con­tinue eas­ing our re­stric­tions, they are in­creas­ing theirs.

Our successes in bat­tling this en­emy means we’ve been able to make a num­ber of changes that will make life a lit­tle eas­ier.

Peo­ple in Mel­bourne can now see more peo­ple they love, for longer, and travel fur­ther to see them. They can also do more of the things they love — play ten­nis or golf. And thou­sands more will head back to work. Hair­dressers will re­open, out­door real es­tate auc­tions will re­turn, and tradies will be able to do out­door main­te­nance and re­pairs.

Due to the very low num­ber of cases in re­gional Vic­to­ria, we’ve been able to make fur­ther changes there too.

Li­braries are back open, re­li­gious ser­vices can be held for up to 20 peo­ple out­side, and re­gional pubs and restau­rants can host more pa­trons — in­doors and out.

The lat­est health ad­vice tells us we can make these changes safely, with­out risk­ing all we have worked so hard to achieve.

That same ad­vice tells us we can take the rest of the third step that will see re­tail, hos­pi­tal­ity and per­sonal care ser­vices open in Mel­bourne at the start of Novem­ber. But if we con­tinue to keep test­ing up and cases down — par­tic­u­larly mys­tery cases — we may be in a po­si­tion to move sooner.

When we do reach this step, Mel­bourne will move from “stay home” to “stay safe” — with no re­stric­tions on the rea­sons to leave home — and peo­ple will be able to have vis­i­tors to their house.

Other as­pects of our road map, from ac­com­mo­da­tion to out­door sport, will also be in­tro­duced then.

I un­der­stand that for some these changes won’t be enough. They’ll want more — and they’ll want it sooner. But the whole way through this, we have been guided by our pub­lic health ex­perts‘ ad­vice.

So please, keep wear­ing a mask, keep main­tain­ing your dis­tance — and if you feel sick, get tested and stay home.

We have come too far — sac­ri­ficed too much — to give up now. We are so close.

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