Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Authorities to further ease restrictions in regional Victoria, Australia, from 2359 Sept. 16. Tighter measures continue in Melbourne.

Alert Begins 15 Sep 2020 06:20 AM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Victoria (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Movement restrictions, business and flight disruptions, increased security

Officials will further ease restrictions in regional Victoria from 2359 Sept. 16 after reporting reductions in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Regional Victoria will enter step three of the government's four-step reopening roadmap. Officials will allow travel outside of the home for any reason without distance limits; however, residents remain banned entering areas under higher restrictions. Residents can host up to five people at home from one other household. Authorities will permit public gatherings of up to 10 people. Funerals can take place with up to 20 people. Hospitality companies can resume operations with outdoor seating only, and retail outlets can reopen. Although most personal care services remain closed, officials will allow hairdressers and barbershops to reopen. Schools will resume in-person classes with Term 4 with social distancing measures in place.

Tighter measures continue in metropolitan Melbourne, which entered the first step of the reopening roadmap Sept. 14. Residents can only leave their homes for permitted reasons, such as attending work or school, providing or receiving care, purchasing essential goods, or exercising. Only one person per household may leave home for essential purchases. People living alone will be allowed to invite one other person to their residence. Gatherings of up to two people from different households or residents of the same home are permitted outdoors for up to two hours daily; outdoor exercise can also occur for up to two hours daily. Authorities continue to prohibit travel more than 5 km (3 miles) from residences. However, officials have reduced curfew hours to 2100-0500. Restaurants and cafes are open statewide but can only offer takeaway and delivery options.

Nonessential companies and venues, such as personal care services, gyms, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions, remain closed. The government continues to encourage work from home measures if possible. The government mandates the use of face coverings in public for all people above 12 years of age. People do not need to wear face coverings while jogging, running, or cycling, but must carry them. Authorities could issue fines of up to AUD 200 (USD 140) for people breaking the order. Victoria Police has increased patrols throughout the affected areas. Authorities plan to randomly stop and question drivers and pedestrians to confirm the reason for their travel. Random checkpoints are likely. Fines are possible.

The federal government has diverted international flights from airports in Melbourne (MEL, AVV) per the Victoria government's request due to concerns over quarantine capacity and effectiveness. Since July 1, officials have rerouted inbound flights to other states, effectively halting international flights into Melbourne. Incoming passengers will have to undergo quarantine before traveling to Victoria. Intrastate travel remains banned until further notice, with exemptions made for a permitted purpose.

Background and Analysis
The government introduced its four-step program to reduce restrictions Sept. 6, but metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will move into phases on different schedules due to discrepancies in COVID-19 activity. While the government has laid out target dates to enter the various steps, officials have emphasized they will rely on targeted health outcomes before making decisions. According to the reopening roadmap, regional Victoria is slated to enter the final step from Nov. 23, while metropolitan Melbourne could enter the second step of the plan as early as Sept. 28.

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Remain polite and nonconfrontational if questioned by security personnel. Avoid crowded areas as a precaution. Stock up on essential supplies. Confirm business appointments in affected areas. Check the status of flights with airlines if flying into Melbourne in the coming weeks.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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