From a distance: Coronavirus restrictions ease again but people urged to follow the rules
GOOD weather combined with loosened coronavirus restrictions in Victoria saw a spike in people out and about on the Surf Coast at the weekend, but local and state governments are urging people to keep following the social distancing rules.
Groups of up to 10 can now meet outdoors, and the good news will keep coming, with cafes, pubs and restaurants to re-open their doors from the start of June to serve meals to up to 20 customers in each enclosed space.
South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman said the weekend was “certainly the busiest I’ve seen Torquay and the Surf Coast for some time”.
“We had some absolutely fantastic autumn weather, and people obviously took advantage of the easing of restrictions.”
He said the threat of coronavirus was far from over, and the restrictions – although somewhat eased since the beginning of the pandemic and set to ease further – were there for a reason.
“This is a deadly virus, and I hope people will continue to observe social distancing and especially keep vehicle travel to a minimum.”
Surf Coast Shire mayor Rose Hodge echoed this stance in a message posted to the council’s social media on Sunday afternoon.
“This is a critical phase for us. The easing of restrictions means there is an increased risk of transmission,” she said.
“Good hygiene habits like regular handwashing and physical distancing are as important now as at any time since the pandemic began.”
As announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, the number of people per enclosed space in a pub, club or restaurant could increase to up to 50 patrons by June 22 and up to 100 patrons by the second half of July.
Joel Taylor, general manager of the Taylor Group – which owns the Torquay Hotel, Grovedale Hotel and Barwon Heads Hotel – said the 20-patron limit would suit smaller operators “and it’s fantastic news for them”, but not larger venues.
“I’ve had lots of messages from customers saying ‘June 1! June 1!’, but if you’re sitting in a room designed for 200 and you’re one of 20, it’s not really the experience we want to offer you.
“Pubs are strange places without people in them.
“We’re looking forward to the next stage (with a 50-patron limit), where we might be able to turn the bars into little bistros.”
All venues will need to abide by existing physical distancing requirements of one person per four square metres. Tables will also need to be spaced at least 1.5 metres apart.
Restrictions on other spaces within venues, including public bars and gaming areas, will remain in place throughout June.
Mr Andrews said before each of the three dates, the Chief Health Officer would review the rates of community transmission in Victoria, confirm the ability to test, trace and respond to possible outbreaks and make sure there was an adequate safety net in the health system.