Victorians are being told that from next month, the message is shifting from “stay home” to “stay safe”, as a raft of coronavirus restrictions ease.
But the relaxed restrictions will not change the health advice to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from others, avoid hugging and kissing where possible, and give space to those around you.
And those who are vulnerable, such as Victorians over 70, or those with chronic health conditions, are still being urged to think carefully about limiting their interactions in order to reduce the risk of infection.
Premier Daniel Andrews has also made clear the changes will only proceed if every Victorian with the slightest of symptoms continues to be tested to maintain what he says are “among the highest test rates in the world”.
With that in mind, this is what the path out of restrictions for Australia’s second most-populous state will look like.
Forget going back to the office, for now
While lots of things are loosening up, the direction for every Victorian who is able to work from home to do so remains, at least for the rest of June.
“If we have literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people returning to office blocks, pressing lift buttons, sharing the kitchen, using common spaces, bathrooms and other spaces like that, then we will simply have this virus get away from us,” Mr Andrews said.
“It is the greatest risk to a second wave and then all that we’re trying to avoid — the notion of having to reimpose some of these rules.”
While the Premier acknowledged continuing to work from home would be frustrating and difficult for some businesses, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said others had discovered its silver lining.
He encouraged businesses to think about what they could do with their IT infrastructure or organisation to make working from home sustainable.
We can get together in larger groups
From June 1, Victorians will be able to have 20 people under the roofs of their homes — but that includes those who live there.
So, for example, a family of three will be able to host 17 people in their house.
And gatherings outside, such as picnics, will be able to include up to 20 people as well.
The Premier has urged people remain mindful of the pandemic and the need for physical distancing.
“In all your activities, be considered, be cautious, use your common sense,” Mr Andrews said.
The limit on the number of people allowed at house inspections and auctions will also rise from 10 to 20, with real estate agents required to keep track of the number of attendees and their contact details.
A night away from home will be allowed
With the bushfires and the pandemic having hammered Victoria’s tourism economy, the latest easing of restrictions holds good news, with overnight stays at accommodation and private residences allowed from June 1.
That extends to campgrounds and caravan parks, where people will be able to pitch a tent and camp overnight once again.
But don’t expect communal facilities like kitchens or bathrooms to be available. They’ll remain closed to reduce the transmission risk presented by shared spaces.
A trip to the movies is on the cards
A range of cultural spaces will be allowed to reopen across the month, starting with galleries, museums, drive-in cinemas and historic sites from June 1.
Zoos, outdoor amusement parks, libraries, youth centres and community facilities will also be given the green light from the start of the month.
Beauty and personal care services like nail salons, spas and tattoo parlours will also reopen, but they will be required to keep the contact details of each customer.
All of these places will need to follow physical-distancing directions and a limit of 20 patrons “per space” will apply.
Professor Sutton defined a “space” like this: “It’s largely about a single, undivided space where you can manage the flow of people going in and out.”
But the overriding rule of 4 square metres of space per customer still applies, so it’s possible some smaller venues won’t be able to host the full 20 people.
If all goes according to plan, on June 22 that limit will be raised to 50 people, with cinemas and theatres finally able to open their doors again.
The Premier has stressed coronavirus testing results will inform the easing of restrictions at every step of the way, with a focus on avoiding a scenario where a liberty is offered to businesses that then has to be taken back.
“The more people that get tested, the more options we have, to not make changes based on guesswork, but instead to make changes based on what the data is telling us,” he said.
Pools will reopen — but you might need to book
It’s getting easier for Victorians to get out and about for different kinds of exercise, starting with the reopening of public playgrounds and outdoor gym equipment from Tuesday, the same day state schools will welcome back the first wave of students to classrooms.
Community sport will be able to run from June 1 provided it’s held outdoors or with no more than 20 people in undivided spaces, is non-contact and people are able to play while respecting 1.5 metre physical distancing.
Swimming pools will also be able to open, but with that limit of 20 people in place.
If community transmission rates remain low and testing rates high, indoor gyms and fitness centres will be able to open their doors again on June 22, with no more than 20 people per space and up to 10 people involved in a group or activity at any one time.
June 22 is also the date Victorians (and anyone from interstate for that matter) should be able to take to the state’s ski slopes, which are set for a bumper season of snow this year.
A return to prayer in places of worship will be possible
The limit on funeral attendees has been tough, which may be why it’s being relaxed fastest, with up to 50 mourners allowed at funerals from June 1.
For weddings, up to 20 people will be allowed, plus the celebrant and couple.
The same limit of 20 people will apply to “private worship or small religious ceremonies”, in addition to those required to perform the service.
But a night out clubbing is still a long way off
While the Government has already announced that restaurants, cafes and the dining section of pubs will be able to reopen from June 1 with a 20-person limit (rising to 50 on June 22), bars and clubs are proving more of a challenge.
Why Melbourne’s nightclubs may never be the same again
A city’s signature nightlife culture is on life support, with some landmark Melbourne venues already pulling the plug and many more expected to go the same way.
“I think indoor gatherings of that nature, where it’s not table service, it’s … very challenging to maintain social distance and where you’ve got alcohol being consumed — let’s be clear — at a higher level than it might be in other settings … I think that those types of venues are going to be the very last venues to reopen,” Mr Andrews said.
“They would have to look very, very different and then it’ll be a matter of us engaging with that sector to have a conversation with them about whether they want to open up with those rules.”
If you’re after more information, the Department of Health and Human Services has set up a page that breaks this all down in much more detail.