Officials are easing restrictions in regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne from 2359 Oct. 27 amid a drop in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Regional Victoria remains in step three of the government's reopening plan. However, the government is loosening measures on other types of gatherings. Gyms and indoor exercise classes can resume with up to 20 people. Officials will allow religious services inside for up to 20 people and up to 50 people outside. Funerals can also have 50 attendees if taking place outdoors. Food courts will reopen, and transport tours can resume, though booking sizes remain limited. Officials already allow travel outside of the home for any reason without distance limits in regional Victoria; however, residents remain banned from entering areas under higher restrictions. Authorities permit residents to host up to five people at home from one other household and public gatherings of up to 10 people. Hospitality companies have resumed operations with outdoor seating only, and retail outlets have reopened. Outdoor sports facilities are operating with limited capacity. Personal care services have resumed. All open businesses must ensure that customers are not from metropolitan Melbourne. Schools have resumed in-person classes with social distancing measures in place.

Authorities will also loosen restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne from 2359 Oct. 27, allowing residents to leave home for any reason. However, a 25-km (15-mile) travel limit remains in place. Tight security aimed at preventing unauthorized travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will also stay in place. The government will permit retail and hospitality businesses to reopen with up to 20 people inside and 50 people outside. Personal services will also resume. Personal fitness and similar classes can resume outdoors with up to 10 people. Libraries and community centers can host outdoor events. Religious services are possible indoors for 10 people or outdoors for up to 20 people. Funerals can also have 20 attendees, while weddings remain limited to 10 attendees. Gatherings of up to ten people from different households or residents of the same house are permitted outdoors.

Victoria still requires residents statewide to use facemasks when in public, including indoor facilities such as gyms and personal service locations. People do not need to wear facemasks while jogging, running, or cycling but must carry them. Officials could issue fines for people breaking the order. While employees can return to offices, the government advises people to work from home if possible.

Victoria Police will likely continue to stop and question drivers and pedestrians randomly to confirm the reason for their travel in metropolitan Melbourne. Police will increase enforcement at checkpoints on roads between Melbourne and regional Victoria to prevent travel between the locations. Officers have warned of long delays at checkpoints. In regional Victoria, officers plan to patrol outdoor recreation areas to enforce the measure. Authorities have announced a fine of AUD 4,957 (USD 3,632) for Melbourne residents discovered in regional Victoria without permission.

The federal government continues to divert international flights from airports in Melbourne (MEL, AVV) per the Victoria government's request due to concerns over quarantine capacity and effectiveness. Incoming passengers will have to undergo quarantine before traveling to Victoria. Intrastate travel remains banned until further notice, with exemptions made for permitted purposes.

Background and Analysis
The latest easing is in line with the state's dual, four-step roadmap under which metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria move through the reopening phases on different schedules. Officials plan to further ease restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne from Nov. 9, bringing rules in Greater Melbourne in line with regional Victoria. Authorities will also end distance limitations and security barriers separating the two areas, provided another spike in COVID-19 cases does not occur. According to the reopening roadmap, Victoria is slated to enter the final step from Nov. 23.

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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