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Stage four restrictions in Melbourne will be extended for two weeks to 28 September with the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, declaring “we can’t run out of lockdown”.
“I want a Christmas that is as close to normal as possible and this is the only way, these steps are the only way, that we will get to that point,” Andrews said when revealing a roadmap to eventually lift restrictions which currently include a night-time curfew.
Stage four was originally meant to end on 13 September. The extension will include some minor changes. From midnight next Sunday, Andrews said, the curfew will start at 9pm instead of 8pm and people who live on their own will be able to have one guest in their home, extending the current rules for intimate partner visits to one friend or family member.
The daily exercise limit in Melbourne – Australia’s second-largest city – will also be extended from one hour to two hours.
If daily case numbers fall to an average of between 50 and 30 per day by 28 September, Andrews said, public outdoor gatherings will be able to increase from two people to five people from two households. Schools will also return from grades prep to two and also years 10, 11 and 12 for VCE and VCAL studies. Childcare will reopen, as will a number of industries.
“I know there will be some industries … disappointed they are not on that list but whenever you draw a line, there will always be different groups on either side of it,” Andrews said. “This has got to be done in a safe and steady way.”
From 26 October, if the daily average has fallen to fewer than five new cases per day, the curfew will lift and there will be no restrictions on the reasons people can leave home. The 5km travel limit will also be lifted.
Outdoor gatherings will increase to 10 people and up to five guests will be allowed in a home from “another nominated household” – meaning the so-called bubble system will be extended.
Schools will return for students in years three to 10, retail businesses and hairdressers will reopen, and cafes and restaurants will be able to open for outdoor seated service. Non-contact adult sport will be allowed to resume.
From 23 November, outdoor gatherings will increase to 50 people, Melbourne residents will be allowed to have up to 20 visitors in their home, all retail and hospitality will be open with 20-person limits in restaurants, real estate will open, and wedding and funerals will return to normal. There will also be a phased return to working from the office for those currently working from home.
All of these steps will be subject to health advice, Andrews said. The roadmap closely follows the version leaked on Saturday.
“Until we put this out, until we contain this properly, we cannot open up,” Andrews said. “Because if we did that we wouldn’t be opening up at all, we would simply be beginning a third wave. One that will do even more damage than this pandemic has already done. I want to get the place open and I want to keep it open. And unless this is done safely and steadily that simply won’t happen.”
Regional Victoria, which is currently under stage three restrictions, will move “a step ahead of metropolitan Melbourne”, the premier said.
Sunday’s announcement follows the release of modelling by the University of Melbourne and the University of New England, which said that if the stage four restrictions were lifted before daily case numbers fell below 25 the figures could “rebound”, sending Victoria into a third wave and risking another lockdown by Christmas.
Andrews said it was “one of the most comprehensive pieces of modelling work” done in Australia and it had national significance. “You can’t argue with this sort of data,” he said. “You can’t do anything but follow the best health advice, otherwise … we will just be beginning to lose control again of this virus.”
Melbourne was placed under stage four lockdown on 2 August while regional Victoria was put under stage three. Stage four includes curfew from 8pm to 5am, permits required for people going to work, restricted childcare access, a 5km limit on travel for exercise or essential supplies, and a one hour limit on exercise. Masks are compulsory across Victoria.
Victoria recorded 63 new cases on Sunday and five new deaths, all of which were linked to aged care. Some 283 people are in hospital with 19 patients in intensive care, of which 16 are on ventilators. There are currently 1,872 active cases in Victoria, of which just 98 are in regional areas under stage three restrictions. Victoria has recorded 19,538 cases in 2020.
Just 18,338 tests were conducted yesterday, considerably lower than the more than 38,000 recorded in NSW for the same period, where 10 new cases were recorded on Sunday.
Andrews said the decision to extend lockdown was “not a 50-50 choice”.
“We can’t run out of lockdown,” he said. “We have to take steady and safe steps out of lockdown.”
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Prof Allen Cheng, said the modelling suggested that “if we relax too early we risk a loss of control and … another lockdown”.
“We need to find that sweet spot between the length of the current lockdown and the risk of a resurgence,” Cheng said. “The worst outcome for everyone is the need to have repeated lockdowns with the uncertainty, never knowing from week to week what we’re doing. None of us would be able to plan anything.
“We have come this far now. If we can just hold on a little longer we can get ourselves into a better place where we can open up more and still maintain control.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Melbourne stage 4 coronavirus lockdown extended for two weeks | Victoria