THE state government has given its strongest indication yet that regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne will not have to move together along the state’s coronavirus roadmap.
Councils outside metropolitan Melbourne moved on September 17 to the roadmap’s Third Step, which has considerably lower restrictions on movement and activity than under the Second Step (which still applies in metropolitan Melbourne).
The next stage, the Last Step, has even looser restrictions, including outdoor public gatherings of up to 50 people, up to 20 visitors to the home, indoor hospitality functions for up to 50 people, and reopening of gyms and municipal libraries.
However, the roadmap states all of Victoria must move together to the Last Step (which requires no new cases for 14 days), and metropolitan Melbourne will not move to the Third Step until at least Monday, October 19.
In a press conference with regional journalists last week, Premier Daniel Andrews flagged a possible change to the roadmap rules because of Melbourne’s slow progress towards meeting the threshold for the Third Step.
“We had originally forecast trying to keep Melbourne and regional Victoria as closely aligned as possible, because that then means you can then get rid of that border and you can have more freedom of movement,” he said.
“But just like the original decision for the Third Step in regional Victoria, we didn’t put a date on that, because we knew it would come relatively quickly, therefore we din’t have to subdivide regional Victoria into lots of different zones.
“If Melbourne is more stubborn than we thought, we will give very detailed consideration to perhaps taking some further small steps so that we can continue to have activity and jobs and that sense of recovery in regional Victoria; we won’t have them held back by some of the challenges we’ve faced in Melbourne.”
He would not be drawn on what could specifically change for regional Victorians, or when it might change.
“That’s not for today, and it’s not even for next week – that’ll be something that’s under constant review and the data and the doctors and the science will drive us,” he said. “That’s what’s delivered the low numbers, that’s what will ensure the low numbers, and that’s what will see a summer that is relatively normal and a 2021 that is vastly different to 2020.”
For more information on the coronavirus roadmap, head to coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-roadmaps.