THERE’S no doubt that the ‘flattening of the curve’ and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s encouraging words last Friday have started to release the shackles.

It may not have prompted action from the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, but already the community is voting with its feet.

Despite the wet, cold and wintry conditions on Saturday, it was noticeable that a lot more people were out and about, not just getting the necessities of life but also indulging in some good, old-fashioned retail therapy right across the board.

The Plaza at Wonthaggi was especially busy, given a pre-Mother’s Day boost, the carpark at Woolies was packed too, as was Thompson Avenue in Cowes, and the shopping centres in Inverloch and Leongatha.

There’ve been no changes to the ‘four reasons to be out’ rules but it’s clear the community has taken their lead from the Prime Minister rather than wait for the Premier on Monday.

“I’ve seen it loosening up for a few weeks now,” said Graham Fitton, President of the Wonthaggi Business and Tourism Association.

“It seems to me that when the curve started to come down that people got a bit more confidence back.

“I went down to Woolworths today and the carpark was absolutely packed on a Saturday afternoon where three weeks ago you could have fired a canon down the street.

“But, all the same, I think there’s a danger with people getting over-confident,” Mr Fitton said.

“I’ve also noticed it in Inverloch too with more and more shops open.

“It’s probably reflecting my own attitude when the curve started going up, I bunkered down at home, being in the risk age group and simply didn’t go out at all.

“Now that it’s flattened out, I am going out but still doing all the hand washing, wiping down surfaces, using sanitiser and practicing social distancing, and when you get home, washing your hands again and taking all the precautions.

“But definitely people are more confident.

“And hats off to the government for what they’ve done. Certainly, the Job Keeper package was a game-changer for business. People have been able to get back to work and there’s a bit more money around. That’s good we’ve got to get the economy going but it’s a bit of a worry too.

“It’s my concern that if they release the restrictions too soon, we’ll be opening ourselves up to a second wave that could be worse than the first.

“We’ve still got to keep up the social distancing and the good hygiene going because if there is an outbreak, it could be devastating,” Mr Fitton said.

Here is the three-step plan announced by the PM, broadly welcomed by Daniel Andrews but not yet put into action:

Step One

Step one will enable greater connection with friends and family, allowing gatherings up to 10 people, and five guests in your own home. Working from home, if it works for you, and your employer. It will see children back in classrooms and in playgrounds in their communities. Golfers back on the green. Lap swimmers back in the pool. Boot camps back in the parks. Retail and small cafes and restaurants reopening (4m rules). Interstate recreational travel, starting again. It will see easing of restrictions for funerals with up to 30 attendees, outdoors, and 10 at weddings.

Step two

Step two will allow larger size gatherings up to 20 people, including for venues such as cinemas and galleries, more retail openings on sector-based COVID safe plans, organised community sport, and beauty parlours, and you’ll be pleased to know, barre classes open once again.

Step three

Step three, allowing gatherings up to 100 people. This will become clearer as we move through the first two steps. So there will be more work to do on step 3. But most workers, by then, will be back in the workplace. Interstate travel will likely resume. Pubs and clubs with some restrictions will be open. And also possibly gaming venues. As I said, steps three, step three, but also step two, will get greater definition as we move through the success of step one.

Meanwhile the ‘stay at home’ restrictions are still in force. There are only four reasons to be out as follows:

  • shopping for what you need – food and essential supplies
  • medical, care or compassionate needs
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely