It’s been more than three weeks since there has been a new coronavirus case in Victoria and Premier Daniel Andrews will today outline what are expected to be the final changes to the COVID-19 rules to take us through summer.
Here’s a look at what could change.
Masks — we’ll be wearing them less
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has already said there will be changes to masks and the rules about when they must be worn.
Currently, masks must be worn indoors and on public transport and must be carried outdoors when social distancing is not possible.
Paul Guerra from the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) said masks had served their purpose, for now at least.
“Let’s get a rule in place where we limit the use of them. Let everybody choose when they’re going to wear the mask,” he said.
“Importantly in public areas, particularly crowded public areas like public transport and maybe supermarkets and the like masks go on.
“But everywhere else let’s continue to carry the mask, so it teaches you a habit.”
Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said masks probably will still have to be worn in places where you’re sitting next to someone you don’t know for a long period.
“So it might be public transport because that can be quite condensed space but also cinemas, theatre; all those sorts of people,” she said.
But supermarkets are “quite safe”, she said, because you never stand next to someone for a long time and the checkouts have screens. So they might not be needed there.
“I suspect they’re the place they might be able to relax them now,” she said.
The Opposition’s David Southwick said if we want tourists to come to Victoria the mask rules need to change.
“How do we expect them to do that when they’re not wearing a mask in any other state, but they’re forced to do that here in Victoria,” he said.
Hospitality — patron caps may change
Hospitality is another place the rules might be about to shift.
Smaller hospitality venues can have a limit of 50 customers with one person per 2 square metres while larger venues can have up to 150 people subject to a density quota.
Professor Bennett said under the COVID-normal step on the Victorian roadmap, we should be moving away from caps on the numbers of people in restaurants and bars and focus on the density of patrons.
Mr Guerra said the main thing VECCI wanted was some certainty for the hospitality and events sector.
“It’d be great to see the events sector up and running in full capacity,” he said.
“We’d love to see the hospitality events sector move to a 2-square-metre rule — ideally [with] no cap — but let’s get the limit to at least 300 inside,” he said.
The coronavirus restriction rules have changed frequently this year and Mr Guerra is hoping they can be simplified.
“We know the rules have been there to protect everybody. We know the state has changed them as conditions have allowed them to change,” he said.
“That’s why we’d like to see an announcement that clears even more rules out of the way so that we can get on with it.”
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Mr Southwick said Victoria’s restrictions need to line up with the other states so the state can hang out the ‘open for business’ sign.
“I just think it would be really, really difficult to be able to say there’s one lot of rules here in Victoria and different rules in every other state around Australia when we’ve had zero cases in 36 days,” he said.
Getting back to work in the CBD — slowly
Businesses are now allowed to have 25 per cent of their staff in their CBD offices and that percentage may be increased in stages over the summer.
Professor Bennett said the big question was whether masks should be worn in the office.
And as long as the business has a COVID-safe plan, it should be safe to stop wearing masks at work.
“I think we’ll still keep masks on public transport,” she said.
“But if the office planning is in place and COVID-safe operations are working and we don’t have community transmission then it might speed up that process of letting people back into the office.”
How many guests can I have for Christmas?
Victorians are now able to have 15 visitors in their homes per day and by December 13, the number rises to 30.
Professor Bennett said there was no community transmission in Victoria and there was no need to wait another two weeks for that to come into effect.
She said it is just about deciding what is a safe level of protection should the virus reappear.
“I think we’re in a position to say this is the reset we don’t need to keep easing out of this,” she said.
“We need to just put the markers in the ground at what we’re going to get to and hold on to.”
Mr Guerra agrees.
“We do not want a third wave. And it’s up to everybody — the event owner the business owner, the customer and the general citizen to make sure we do the right thing,” he said.
“We know if we do all those things the chances of keeping COVID at bay will be high which means we can get on with having a COVID-safe summer.”