MELBOURNE, Australia — A fifth lockdown has been lifted off the southeast Australian state of Victoria, with new restrictions coming in place to prevent another potentially lockdown-inducing Covid-19 outbreak.
From July 28, Victorians will be able to travel any distance and leave their homes for any reason, but masks will remain compulsory indoors and outdoors.
A ban on home gatherings remains. However, people are able to gather outside in groups of 10.
Restaurants and cafes can reopen for seated service only, with a maximum cap of 100 per venue and density quotas of one person per four square meters or 43.05 square feet, while smaller venues are limited to 25 people.
Retail, live music venues, and gyms can also throw open their doors with strict density limits, workers may return to offices at 25 percent capacity, and students can return to school.
However, the business community is warning many venues may not be able to open under the new rules, which are expected to remain in place for two weeks.
“I predict half the cafes on Chapel Street won’t open for another few weeks because of tough density quotas that simply make it inequitable,” Chrissie Maus, general manager of Chapel Street Precinct, said.
“While case numbers in Sydney remain so high, we are still at risk of another significant incursion from NSW (New South Wales), so on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, changes will also be made to tighten our cross-border bubble with New South Wales,” Andrews said in an official statement on July 27.
Employer body Ai Group said Victoria’s “lockdown lite” restrictions will do little to alleviate angst in the business community.
“The new restrictions won’t enable restaurants, cafes, and hospitality venues to return to numbers which allow them to run a profitable business,” the body’s Victorian head Tim Piper said.
Despite the end of lockdown, Andrews warned the fight against the highly infectious Delta variant is “not over.”
“We’ve got to be vigilant against this virus, the Delta strain, in the days and weeks and months ahead until we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” he said.
“We’re on the cusp of containing our second Delta outbreak … but we can’t call it mission accomplished yet,” Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer of New South Wales, said.
People can now leave local government areas without having to be listed on the Authorized Provider and Authorized Worker list, which means both essential and non-essential working professionals can stay out in the community.
The state recorded 10 local Covid-19 cases on July 27, all of which were quarantine throughout their infectious period.
Nine new inner-Melbourne exposure sites were also listed, including a train line and several grocery stores.
Edited by Saptak Datta and Krishna Kakani
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