Shepparton News - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREW JOHNSTON

Shep­par­ton’s evolv­ing COVID-19 clus­ter has not pre­vented re­gional Vic­to­ria from tak­ing another step to­wards re­open­ing.

A se­ries of re­stric­tions have been eased as of last night, with hos­pi­tal­ity across Shep­par­ton the big win­ner.

With no fur­ther cases be­ing di­ag­nosed in con­nec­tion to the Shep­par­ton clus­ter, venues will be free to open fur­ther in line with the changes im­me­di­ately.

The num­ber of peo­ple al­lowed in hos­pi­tal­ity venues has dou­bled, with up to 40 peo­ple in max­i­mum group sizes of 10 al­lowed in­side venues, and up to 70 out­side.

It’s one of many changes re­lat­ing to the num­ber of peo­ple who can gather.

Lo­cals will now be al­lowed more peo­ple in their house­holds, with the “house­hold bub­ble” scrapped.

There are now two adults plus their de­pen­dents al­lowed in another house­hold at a time.

In­door pools will be able to open to peo­ple un­der the age of 18, with a max­i­mum of 20 swim­mers at a time, and one-on-one hy­drother­apy with health pro­fes­sion­als will also be al­lowed.

Out­door re­li­gious gath­er­ings will be able to in­crease to 20 peo­ple, while li­braries and toy li­braries will open to a max­i­mum of 20 peo­ple.

House­holds will also be able to visit a care fa­cil­ity in­stead of just one per­son a day.

Pre­mier Daniel An­drews an­nounced the changes yes­ter­day morn­ing, say­ing the eas­ing of re­stric­tions was the re­sult of Vic­to­ria’s re­cent per­for­mance in sup­press­ing the virus.

“Vic­to­ri­ans have done an amaz­ing job over re­cent weeks and months,” he said.

“What it means is that as so many cities across the world head into what is go­ing to be a deadly win­ter, we across Vic­to­ria are well-placed to have a COVID-safe sum­mer and a COVID-nor­mal 2021.”

And there could be even more eas­ing next week­end.

Mr An­drews also an­nounced that, from Novem­ber 1, non-con­tact in­door phys­i­cal re­cre­ation such as dance classes would be al­lowed for 20 peo­ple un­der 18, as would non-con­tact in­door com­mu­nity sport for un­der-18s, with lim­its on spec­ta­tors.

How­ever the pre­mier said de­pend­ing on the out­comes of cases in the fol­low­ing week, these changes could be brought for­ward to Oc­to­ber 25.

“But if we con­tinue to track well on the most im­por­tant in­di­ca­tors — case av­er­ages, mys­tery cases, test num­bers and the num­ber of days peo­ple wait be­fore they get tested — we may be in a po­si­tion to move sooner,” Mr An­drews said.

“These in­di­ca­tors help tell us the story that sits be­hind a case, and un­der­stand how we can safely make our next moves.”

But met­ro­pol­i­tan Mel­bourne will re­main cut off from re­gional Vic­to­ria un­til all ar­eas are on the same level of re­stric­tions.

Mr An­drews said ex­tra check­points would be added to the

‘‘ring of steel’’ to pre­vent Mel­bourne res­i­dents from mak­ing their way to re­gional ar­eas.

He said he hoped all travel re­stric­tions would be eased in time for the Christ­mas pe­riod.

“We have seen some pretty pos­i­tive signs there, and in terms of re­gional Vic­to­ria I would like to think we are able to have much more free­dom of move­ment.”

Test­ing blitz: Drive-through COVID-19 test­ing at Shep­par­ton Sports Sta­dium.

Backed up: Peo­ple wait­ing for COVID-19 tests at Shep­par­ton Sports Sta­dium.

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