Victoria’s COVID ‘Freedom Day’ welcomed as state nears 90pc vaccination milestone
Since opening in March last year, Comedy Republic had to keep its doors closed 49 per cent of the time.
But things will be different in Victoria with restrictions now eased.
Comedy Republic co-founder Kyran Wheatley said being able to open to 100 per cent capacity for the very first time was “unbelievable”.
“I’ve had the date that we were expecting 90 per cent [vaccination] up on my whiteboard for weeks,” Mr Wheatley said.
“Every day that it changes, I’d scrub it out and put the new one up.
On Wednesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a wide-ranging easing of COVID-19 restrictions across Victoria.
From 11:59 pm on Thursday night, there were no longer density limits at hospitality venues, restrictions of home visits were removed, and masks were no longer required in most settings.
Mr Andrews said the changes were due to Victorians being on track to have 90 per cent of its population aged 12 and over fully vaccinated on Saturday or Sunday.
“You will be able to go back to normal,” Mr Andrews said.
What this means is that Victorians will have more freedoms than those in NSW, where density limits still apply, including in restaurants, hospitality venues, funerals and weddings.
Mr Wheatley said having no restrictions on density would make a crucial difference to many.
“Tonight’s show has 35 people in a 130-seater [venue],” he said.
“The difference between being open and being under restriction is basically that we’ll be able to make money again.”
Boost for sporting events, but challenges remain
Under the eased conditions, events with fewer than 30,000 people in attendance can go ahead for the fully vaccinated.
Major events such as the Boxing Day Test and the Australian Open will not be subject to attendance or density caps but will need to submit a COVID-safe plan for approval.
Welcoming the changes, Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stuart Fox said given that Victorians had lived the past 18 months in lockdown, the first Boxing Day would be special.
“It’s like a symbolic statement, isn’t it. We’re back, and Victorians can start enjoying life again,” he said.
However, Mr Fox said they would need to be prepared to manage the crowds in a COVID-safe manner.
“The main challenge for us is getting a lot of people through the gates in a very short period of time,” he said.
“It’ll be about being prepared, having the Service Victoria app downloaded and proving double vaccination at gates.”
Safety measures in schools ‘important’
While restrictions are easing elsewhere, and schools, childcare centres and early childhood education are open to all ages, masks must be worn indoors at primary school by staff, visitors and students in years 3 and above.
Australian Education Union Victorian president Meredith Peace said the requirement for masks was understandable.
“There are always challenges when you’re asking students to do things that they must do,” she said.
Meanwhile, business owners are gearing up to cater to punters hungry for a taste of post-lockdown life.
“I’m sure that every single venue owner in the state is scrambling to see how quickly they can open the door tomorrow, how much more stock they can get in the fridge, how many more seats they can get out of storage, to get the doors open again and the people back in the city,” Mr Wheatley said.
“We’ve been in a holding pattern for 18 months, so this is the moment for live entertainment, for live performance.