One restaurateur has welcomed the partial easing of COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria, which start today, calling them "a lifeline."
With more than five weeks since Ballarat had any active cases, the hospitality sector had been pushing to throw their doors open to more patrons for some time.
Yesterday, Premier Daniel Andrews gave them the sought-after news, easing step three restrictions for regional Victoria to allow up to 40 patrons indoors and 70 outdoors.
Household bubbles will now no longer be required outside of Melbourne, while a move towards non-contact and junior indoor sport was foreshadowed for the start of November.
However, the announcement proved disappointing for gym-goers, with Mr Andrews saying it remained too risky for those businesses to open for the moment. There remains no clear timeline for when they would be able to do so, nor was there any certainty on when regional Victorians will be able to visit friends and loved ones in metropolitan Melbourne.
It would have been nice to have it earlier, especially in regional Victoria as there hasn't been any cases - I think it could have happened a lot quickerPeter Burton, publican
There were also calls for residents to remain vigilant, and for the so-called "ring of steel" around Melbourne to be strengthened to stop the spread of the virus.
Peter Burton, the publican of the North Britain Hotel in Soldiers Hill, was happy to see the changes within his sector. "It will definitely make a huge difference, it helps pay the wages," he said.
"It would have been nice to have it earlier, especially in regional Victoria as there hasn't been any cases - I think it could have happened a lot quicker.
"They're being cautious. Hopefully we won't end up in another shutdown."
Mr Burton said he thought businesses would have to get used to operating under the threat of COVID-19.
"I think all the publicans are adhering to all rules so hopefully everything goes smoothly and we come out of it."
"The main thing is to keep on top of the contact tracing. If everybody is honest about everything, they should be able to chase them down."
Venkatesh Ramatchandran, the owner of the Curry Star on Dana Street, also said he was pleased with the changes, despite the wait.
"I am happy at the moment," he said. "When they [opened up] the first time, they did it too quick. They made some mistakes. If you take baby steps like we are doing now, it should be better."
He said the return of more visitors would be key. "This is a tourism place. We can't do it with only local people there."
Charlie Graham of Sturt Street restaurant Bibo said the changes would "provide a lifeline for businesses, especially the small seating establishments."
"It's probably a couple of weeks overdue. Time is of the essence for the survival of these businesses.
"It's alright if you have the capacity because you can move with the restrictions. If you don't have the capacity, you're at ransom to government legislation."
The CEO of Commerce Ballarat Jodie Gillett said it was "pleasing" to see the additional numbers allowed for hospitality venues.
She also said it was "very disappointing" gyms were not included among businesses allowed to reopen.
The Committee for Ballarat's Michael Poulton also welcomed the changes, but sounded a note of caution.
He warned against regional Victorian dropping their guard. "We are close to eradicating this virus, certainly in regional Victoria, let's not risk that."
He also called for the so-called "ring of steel" to be reinforced around Melbourne. "We've got to be really serious about making sure those highway checks are strengthened and continue."
"If it's going to be a ring of steel, let's make sure it is - it's important we continue to monitor that."
Changes that came into effect on October 19
- Hospitality venues can increase their capacity to 40 people (10 groups of four) inside and 70 people outside
- Two adults and dependents will be able to visit a home once a day - there will no longer be a social 'bubble' where you have to nominate just one household. Infants under 12 months are not included in this cap
- Libraries will reopen with a maximum of 20 people
- Outdoor religious gatherings up to 20 people (and 50 from November 1) - infants under 12 months not included in cap
- Indoor pools will open for people aged 18 and under for up to 20 swimmers
- One-on-one hydroptherapy will be allowed
- Households can visit care facilities (rather than one person at a time)
- Outdoor contact and non-contact sport: allowed for people 18 and under - Limited to minimum number of people to play and facilitate the activity (e.g. cricket may be played with two teams of eleven players and the necessary coaching personnel and umpires)
- Outdoor non-contact sport: allowed for adults - Limited to minimum number of people to play and facilitate the activity (e.g. cricket may be played with two teams of eleven players and the necessary coaching personnel and umpires) - Non-contact means participants must be able to maintain distance of 1.5m
- 'Ring of steel' to continue and being 'strengthened' according to the premier
Changes to come into effect from October 21
- Melbourne residents who own a house in regional Victoria will be allowed to visit to prepare their homes for floods and fire from Wednesday - they will need to work with councils beforehand
Changes to come into effect from November 1
- Non-contact indoor sport for under-18s - such as dance classes - will resume for up to 20 people
- Non-contact indoor community sport for under 18-year-olds: spectators limited to one parent, guardian or carer per child
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