THERE will be no restrictions on leaving home or how far you can travel (except travel to areas with higher restrictions) from as early as Wednesday next week if the present low increase in the number of coronavirus cases in regional Victoria continues.

Cafés, pubs and restaurants will be able to offer a mix of indoor and outdoor dining, and all retail outlets will be able to reopen, including Beauty and Personal care salons.

“You’ll be able to have a beer in a pub from as early as mid-week next week.”

That was the word from the Premier Daniel Andrews at his daily coronavirus update on Saturday morning, September 12, as he again raised expectations that regional Victoria will move to Step Three midweek next week.

The news has been hailed as a significant boost to the hospitality sector by Inverloch publican John McInnes.

“I’ve only just caught up with the news and I don’t know the numbers yet but it certainly sounds good anyway, something we can start to work with,” ‘Hoots’ McInnes said from the Inlet Hotel today.

The pub has continued offering takeaway and delivered food and beverages but John believes it will only when hospitality takes the Last Step that things can start to get back to normal

Presently, the rolling 14-day average in regional Victoria is 4.3 and there have been no new cases of unknown origin in the past two weeks.

The total number of cases across the whole of regional Victoria is 58, including 33 at Colac and 10 at Geelong.

There had been some concern about an allegedly unknown case in Echuca on Friday but according to Mr Andrews, this case has thankfully been ruled as a “false positive”.

“Regional Victoria is on track to taking not one but two steps midweek next week and essentially being open,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Saturday, September 12.

“Beauty and personal services where a mask can be worn for the entire treatment will also be able to proceed in the 3rd step alongside hairdressers in regional Victoria from midweek next week.”

Mr Andrews said that as part of the arrangements for opening up regional Victoria, the barriers between regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne would be beefed up to protect the regional areas.

He dismissed the idea that regional areas without positive cases should have been opened earlier.

“If it was six to eight weeks (regional lockdown) then we would have looked at establishing up to eight different areas in regional Victoria but we felt, with a new set of information to take in, that it was better for regional Victoria to go forward as one.

“And as it has turned out, it’s not 6-8 weeks, it’s been 2-3 weeks and it’s much better to be able to go forward as one.

“I’d call it if I could today but I don’t know what’s likely to come in over the weekend but we will moved as soon as we can, in all likelihood in the middle of next week and then the whole of regional Victoria can move as one.”

The state’s Chief Health Officer Professor Sutton spoke about the earliest possible date to move to Step 3, saying we must go through to Monday to see if the numbers in regional Victoria remain low.

He said DHHS would also need to write the public health directives first before making an announcement on the date (for going to stage 3).

There were just 37 new cases in Victoria on Saturday and a further six people who died with coronavirus bringing the state’s death toll to 716, including two women and one man in their 80s, and two woman and one man in their 90s, all linked to aged care outbreaks.

There are 126 in hospital, 9 in hospital, 6 on ventilators.

There were 14,453 tests received. There are 1251 active cases in Victoria, 58 in regional Vic.

There are 4296 cases of unknown source (-7).

The 14-day rolling averages are 61.6 metro, and 4.3 regional. There have been no cases of unknown original in regional areas in the past two weeks.

Under Step Three:

* No restrictions on leaving home

* Spend time with others outside where possible

* Public gatherings: up to 10 people outdoors

* Visitors allowed at home from 1 other household (up to 5 people)

* Schools return to onsite learning from Term 4 with safety measures

* Hospitality open for predominantly outdoor seated service only

* All retail open, except personal care (hairdressers open).

In detail

Schools – Regional Victoria

All regional students can expect to return to onsite learning in term four. This return will be staggered and will commence during the week of 12 October.

Social

The ‘household bubble’ allows increasing interactions with others in the home, while making sure the number of people coming into contact with each other is limited. This aims to balance coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission risk and wellbeing of Victorians.

The household bubble applies from the Third Step. It enables up to five visitors from a nominated household to visit a home. Children under 12 months are not included in the cap.

The total number of people allowed to meet at home as part of a household bubble arrangement is limited by the number of people who reside at the home plus up to five visitors from the other household that is part of the household bubble.

The bubble requires that you choose the same other household for the duration of the step. The bubble is an exclusive arrangement – you cannot have a household choose you and you choose a different household.

Members of a share house can only choose one other household, noting the five-person visitor limit.

The ‘household bubble’ does not apply to gatherings outside the home.

Work

* Work from home if you can

Shopping, personal services, eating and drinking out

* Hospitality – mix of indoor and outdoor dining, group limit of 10 and density limits (can have a drink and a meal in a pub).

* Retail – all open, hairdressing open with safety measures, other beauty/personal care service also allowed to open with masks.

* Real estate – private inspections by appointment only, auctions outdoors subject to gathering limits

* Shopping – no person limits

Exercise and recreation

* Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people aged 18 and younger, outdoor non-contact sport only for adults, with gathering and density limits, outdoor skateparks open, outdoor fitness for groups of 10 people

Ceremonies and special occasions

* Weddings – allowed with up to 10 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant)

* Funerals – allowed with up to 20 people (infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit)

* Religion – outdoor religious gatherings for up to 10 people plus a faith leader, places of worship open for private worship for households or social bubbles, plus a faith leader

Entertainment, leisure and travel

* Travel within Victoria – allowed across all areas in the Third Step (except travel to areas with higher restrictions)

* Entertainment – outdoor venues and events open, subject to pre-approved plans

* Accommodation – open, with caps per the social bubble

When will we move to the Last Step?

Subject to public health advice, from 23 November if we get to zero new cases state-wide for 14 days. Hopes are high however that it might be earlier.