AS A precaution for the further easing of COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria, from 11.59pm tonight, Sunday, October 11, relevant business operators must “take all reasonable steps” to identify where their customers are coming from.

It is assumed the new rule applies to cafes, restaurants, pubs, accommodation and other businesses that either can’t be accessed by lawful metro visitors or where restrictions apply to lawful metro visitors.

(More clarification as it becomes available.)

It’s a measure that the State Government wants to put in place ahead of further social and economic easing of restrictions in regional Victoria next Sunday, October 18.

The announcement was made by the Premier Daniel Andrews at his Sunday briefing, to ensure that people travelling into regional areas from metro Melbourne, for lawful reasons, continued to take the metro rules with them.

“It’s OK to go in and get your takeaway coffee but you can’t be going in and sitting down in a café or a bar. You simply can’t be doing that,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday.

“Regional Victorian businesses have been doing a fantastic job as they open up, not fully open without restrictions, but open safely,” Mr Andrews said.

But he stressed that it needed to continue to be a partnership between the community and government to get the numbers low and keep them low.

He said it was important for those businesses that needed to collect customer data to keep doing that but there’s now a requirement on all business operators to “take all reasonable steps” to identify where their customers are from.

At present, there are no guidelines on how this should be achieved but Health Minister Martin Foley said the guideline was an additional tool by which regional business owners could ask customers for identification if they were in doubt about where those customers were coming from.

“It gives businesses the opportunity to stay open and stay open in a COVID-safe way as we move towards our COVID-normal position. It provides them with an additional tool,” Mr Foley said.

“We’re giving business a positive incentive to say to some people, when they are coming from Melbourne, that they have to bring their obligations with them,” he said.

Two new measures were announced by the Premier and the Health Minister today:

  • Identified close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases must get tested on the 11th day, or else stay an additional 10 days in quarantine
  • From 11.59pm tonight, Sunday, October 11 – regional business operators must take all reasonable steps to identify where their customers are coming from

Please watch for clarification from the State Government on how this needs to be achieved.

The Premier also held out some major positives for regional Victoria business saying there would be some economic as well as social easing of restrictions in country Victoria from Sunday, October 18.

The Premier said that while he didn’t expect the numbers in regional Victoria to be as low as five a few weeks ago, now that the numbers are low, he wants to see them stay that way and driving the numbers in regional Victoria down as low as possible is part of the formula for easing restrictions across the state.

He said there would be changes in regional Victoria, but they would need to be consistent with the rules that are already there.

He said it would be safe to take some social steps in metro Melbourne next Sunday but acknowledged that there could be “social” as well as “economic” steps that could be taken in regional Victoria next Sunday.

“…and we are talking to some business sectors about that,” Premier Andrews said.

But Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said several outbreaks in regional Victoria, including Colac and Kilmore, indicated what the impact could be of the spread of the virus into regional Victoria.

Keeping numbers low in regional Victoria, he said, was still an issue of great importance to the government.

And additional measures, such as sewerage testing, were extra surveillance and response measures that were being taken and these would be expanded as needed.

He said sewerage surveillance could be really crucial in regional Victoria when we get to the point of there being no apparent cases in regional Victoria.

“If that surveillance pings in a certain area, we would be undertaking testing in those areas to discover if there are any active cases.

“As numbers in regional areas reach zero we should not expect there to be no positive results from sewerage testing in regional areas.”