Officials continue easing COVID-19 restrictions across Victoria, Australia, as of Oct. 19. Strict controls active in Melbourne.
Victoria officials continue to implement its roadmap to reduce restrictions in line with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Authorities require residents across the state to use facemasks when in public; other face coverings are no longer permissible. People do not need to wear face coverings while jogging, running, or cycling but must carry them. Authorities could issue fines for people breaking the order. Regional Victoria is in step three in the government's four-step reopening plan. Officials allow travel outside of the home for any reason without distance limits; 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. Funerals and religious services can take place with up to 20 people. Hospitality companies can resume operations with outdoor seating only, and retail outlets can reopen. Outdoor sports facilities may reopen with limited capacity. Although most personal care services remain closed, officials will allow hairdressers and barbershops to reopen. All open businesses must ensure that customers are not from metropolitan Melbourne. Schools have resumed in-person classes with social distancing measures in place.
Metropolitan Melbourne remains in the second step of the reopening roadmap, despite reductions in COVID-19 activity. Authorities have announced further easing of restrictions in the city and surrounding areas Oct. 19, but a move to step 3 remains unlikely. Officials have lifted a nightly curfew and the limit of one person per household leaving home once daily for essential purchases. People can only leave their homes for permitted reasons, such as attending work or school, providing or receiving care, purchasing essential goods, or exercising. However, authorities continue to prohibit travel over 25 km (15 miles) from residences, except to reach childcare facilities. People living alone can host one other person at home. Gatherings of up to ten people from different households or residents of the same house are permitted outdoors. Outdoor sports facilities and some grooming services can function, albeit with social distancing measures. Restaurants and cafes remain open but can only offer takeaway and delivery options. Nonessential companies and venues, gyms, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions remain closed in most places. The government continues to encourage work from home measures if possible. Additional relaxations are planned to begin Nov. 1.
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 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 reach Step 3 by early November.
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.