Saddle up! Regional Victoria is pumping again.


GREAT NEWS! The lockdown in regional Victoria will be lifted from 11.59pm on Thursday night, September 9.

That’s despite four new cases being reported in regional areas on Wednesday; 1 in Mildura (travelled from Melbourne),  1 Mitchell Shire, 1 Bellarine Peninsula and 1 Moorabool Shire.

Please note: The “new case” earlier notified for the Latrobe Valley has since returned a negative result – the GRPHU has advised there is no new case in the Latrobe Valley.

In other good news for regional Victoria, the Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a major change in approach by the State’s Health Team to further outbreaks in regional areas.

Instead of locking down the whole of regional Victoria, as was the case following the Shepparton outbreak, the state government will respond to any outbreaks in regional areas by isolating those areas and introducing the sort of response measures brought to bear on the Shepparton incident.

But the biggest news, hailed by business people in particular right across the region, is that regional Victoria reopens from 11.59pm on Thursday night.

“It’s a great relief. Of course everyone wants to see public health safeguarded but we’ve demonstrated in regional Victoria that we can respond to this and areas that can be opened safely should be open. There’s so much as stake,” Phillip Island business operator Greg Price said today.

Mr Andrews made the following announcement:

“It’s a tribute to the great work of our contact tracers, to our public health teams, but also the great work of regional Victorians over weeks and weeks. That’s why from tomorrow night, with the exception of Shepparton, we can announce that from 11:59pm tomorrow night, Thursday night, the lockdown will end in regional Victoria, with the exception of Greater Shepparton, and the five reasons to leave home will no longer apply.

“Schools will reopen for prep, grade one, grade two, year 11s studying VCE year 12 subjects and of course our year 12s. The rationale behind all of these decisions and what’s safe and why these decisions and not others, the chief health officer will go over that but businesses will be able to reopen, there will be limits though, as I said a number of times now, it’s not a snapback it’s not Freedom Day.

“It’s not 100% of capacity down at the pub. It can’t be. If it was, then we will simply see numbers spread, and then we’ll have to close large parts of regional Victoria down again and perhaps even all of regional Victoria.

“We don’t want that. We want to do this in a cautious way, but in a positive way, in an optimistic way as possible.

“Regional Victorians have done an amazing job. That’s why these steps are possible, whether it be in schools, for our smaller students, in business, up to 25% back into work in workplaces, although if you can work from home, we ask that you do. But we’ll see hospitals reopening, all of those things which are critically important, childcare going back to normal, no more distance limits, no more time limits, there’ll be a degree of freedom in regional Victoria that has been hard won by regional Victorians who have done a fantastic job.

“On Shepparton, we would hope to have Shepparton catch up to the rest of regional Victoria sometime next week, and we’ll make those announcements as soon as we just tidy up the last bits of the outbreak there. The Goulburn Valley communities have done an amazing job, and I think everybody who’s volunteered, everybody who’s isolated at home, everybody who’s been through that 14-day journey, and of course to all of our staff, under the command of Deb Abbott, and so many others, they’ve done a fantastic job.

“Hopefully we can have Greater Shepparton on the same footing as the rest of regional Victoria next week, and the sooner we can do that, the better. And we’ll make announcements as soon as we’re in a position to make those changes.

Localised response not lockdowns

“The other point to make, though, is, if we do finish up with cases bobbing up in regional Victoria in coming weeks, I just want to indicate to everybody across regional Victoria that not only is it our preference, but it will be our practice to have a focused and targeted series of measures.

“As you can see Shepparton is being treated differently because there are cases there. If there were an outbreak in another part of regional Victoria, then we would look to try and target and localise our public health measures as much as we could. That’s why, in order to keep a handle on what’s going on in regional Victoria, people need to get tested as soon as they feel sick.

“People need to get vaccinated as fast as they can and there are many appointments, across all the different platforms available in regional Victoria.

“People in regional Victoria need to follow the rules still, they’re different rules, they’re better rules if you like, but they’re still there and they have to be followed.

“COVID safety is arguably even more important once you start to open up because if the virus gets away from you, there’s a lot more movement, and we would see the virus spread quickly, indeed much more quickly than when we’re locked down.

“But that’s not our aim. Our aim is to be open, and these are really important steps to take.

“I fully concede that it’s not everything that everybody wants, but it is what’s safe, and it is what we believe can be made sustainable.

“It’s not essentially an invitation for cases to get out of control, and then having to take steps backwards. We don’t want to do that. We want to try and avoid that.

Major police protection

Premier Andrews has promised a major police operation to keep metro Melbourne people out of regional areas. Also he has promised that the whole of the state won’t be locked down for outbreaks in specific areas, unless absolutely necessary.

“I will also indicate, and Victoria Police Command will be out to speak to you about this later on today, there will be a very significant boost to enforcement of the regional metropolitan border.

“You can expect, if you are traveling into regional Victoria, you can expect to be pulled over. It won’t necessarily be every single car but there’ll be number plate recognition technology used, there will be a static presence of Victoria Police at different parts, on major roads. So, it won’t be as, I suppose, predictable as a completely static checkpoint. But why would you take that risk?

“If you don’t have good reason, lawful reasons to go to regional Victoria, then please do not go to regional Victoria, you’ll simply take the virus with you. And we’ve seen that, that’s not a theoretical thing. We have actually seen people doing the wrong thing and taking the virus to regional Victoria.

“We don’t want that. Regional Victorians have given a lot, they have achieved a lot too. Let’s safeguard that and that’s why Victoria Police will be able to speak to a significant enforcement operation, which will protect regional Victoria from incursions and the virus traveling from Metro Melbourne into regional Victoria. That task is not easy, but it will be undertaken, and we thank police for that.”

Getting people home

It was also announced today, Wednesday, September 8 that the several hundred Victorians stranded in the border bubble on the NSW side, initially 200 or so, will be able to  come home.

It applies initially to the Victorians who, from August 25 until September 8,  can establish that they have been in the border bubble for 14 days. They will be able to apply for exemption to come home but they must have at least one vaccination dose and must have a negative test, among other conditions.

They must then isolate at home for 14 days on arrival at their Victorian residential address and those staying in the house must also isolate.

Further advice will be provided to assist other stranded Victorians to get home.

There are to be other arrangements announced to get the residents of other states home as well.

Here are some of the changes

* Hospitality: Open for seated service only with maximum of 20 outdoors and 10 indoors subject to density limits.

* General retail: All retail open. Density quotient of 1 person per 4sqm applies. Check-in required Masks mandatory at all times and cannot be removed for eating/drinking in retail settings.

* Hairdressing, beauty, personal care: All beauty/personal care open with a cap of 10 – masks must remain on for duration of service.

* Accommodation open to people who live in regional area. Bookings permitted for single households, intimate partners or single bubbles.

* Real Estate Services open for private inspections only with a maximum of 10 people plus real estate agent. Auctions: Open with a maximum of 10 people.

* Outdoor physical recreation & sport: Outdoor playgrounds open, communal gym equipment and skateparks open. Outdoor personal training: Allowed with up to 10 people and a trainer. Community sport: Permitted, outdoor training only with the minimum number required to train. Spectators are prohibited except one parent permitted to supervise children. Community recreation facilities: Outdoors only with up to 20 people per facility. Outdoor pools: Open with up to 50 people

* Weddings (indoor and outdoor): Permitted with no more than 10 people (and those workers necessary to conduct the wedding). Children under 12 months old are not counted towards this cap.

* Funerals (indoor and outdoor): Permitted with no more than 20 people (and those workers necessary to conduct the funeral). Children under 12 months old are not counted towards this cap

See also the State Government’s official announcement