Victorians could attend each other's houses by Christmas if vaccination rates keep up.
The roadmap released by the state government on Sunday for getting Victoria out of lockdown relies on mass vaccination, with more freedoms granted in line with the national plan at the 70 per cent and 80 per cent fully vaccinated marks.
While Ballarat will stay in strict lockdown until at least Wednesday night, regional Victoria could move to the next stage out of lockdown, at the 80 per cent single jab target, before the end of September at current rates, which means gyms and hair and beauty would reopen.
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But more freedoms would be allowed at the 70 per cent double-jab target, estimated on October 26.
This would mean slightly more capacity in licensed venues, weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies; up to 20 people gathering outdoors, though private visits would still not be allowed.
Almost all of the changes relate only for double-vaccinated people.
The biggest change occurs when the state hits the 80 per cent double-jabbed target, which would increase the number of fully vaccinated people inside venues, and up to 10 people inside private homes.
The aim from there is to get to 80 per cent of people aged 12 or older double-jabbed, which would then follow the national plan - the hope is to allow 30 people inside private homes by Christmas.
Right now, the state is at about 45 per cent double-vaccinated, with Ballarat at 46.9 per cent as of September 13.
There are currently 14 active cases in the region, as of Sunday evening.
Ballarat Health Services acting chief executive Melanie Robertson said vaccination rates need to climb.
"The onus is back on the community. The onus is in the hands of every one of us to get out of this awful cycle we're currently in," she said Sunday.
"The roadmap provides clear direction to us all to get vaccinated, get tested and certainly get back to a level of normality which we will all enjoy."
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton echoed this point - he noted the dates are estimates, and reopening could be much closer if the vaccination rate accelerates.
"It is our most crucial tool in getting through this pandemic," he said.
"I think what's important is we know what the worst case scenario looks like, and better vaccination rates means we'll reach those dates more quickly.
"We've been given a long way out of this, but it's a way out, and the shortcut is to ensure we get vaccination rates higher soon, and chase down any outbreaks through testing."
He added there was plenty of AstraZeneca available in Ballarat, and stocks of Moderna vaccine should be available soon through GPs and pharmacies.
While more detail is yet to be revealed on how "vaccination passports" will work and when they will roll out, a Victorian government media release notes it's likely the system will be incorporated into the existing Services Victoria app used for QR code check-ins, and a regional city is still likely to be a trial site.
Mr Poulton said this was promising, but noted more clarity would be needed for people who are unable to be vaccinated, or people wilfully choosing to ignore health advice.
"The importance of rapid antigen testing when they leave home or when they get to a venue needs to be part of this - there will be a group of people who choose not to or who aren't able to be vaccinated, and what's the alternative for them? Well, take the rapid antigen test so you can get in," he suggested.
"If you choose not to, there will be consequences - I think you'd have to prove you're negative, you'll have to take a test before you get access to a sporting venue or a pub or the workplace or whatever."
The incentive for vaccination now was not just protecting the community, but allowing more businesses to open up faster.
Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett said the roadmap was "extremely disappointing" for businesses, particularly those that had done everything right so far.
"To expect hospitality businesses to only have 10 people inside for another six weeks, both for them and for their employees, is just so difficult to deal with," she said.
"Businesses are being treated as one size fits all, regardless of if it's a capacity of 500 or 50 people, it's still only 10.
"All the businesses we are talking to know that having to only allow people who are vaccinated in is going to be difficult, but they're ready to do it and they're ready to do it now - they'd prefer to have a higher percentage of capacity of vaccinated people than to remain closed, which is basically what they are with 10 people."
She also called for ongoing support for businesses through the reopening process, which Premier Daniel Andrews alluded to in Sunday's press conference.
He said vaccines could be mandated for more industries, including teachers, but demurred when asked if lockdowns could return if cases spiked.
"We're not going to lock down the whole state or the whole of metro Melbourne to protect people who have chosen not to protect themselves," he said.
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Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire, and Mitchell Shire will enter a one-week lockdown from Sunday night, as cases continue to appear.
More details, including a full chart on which restrictions will change, are available online.
Remember to get tested for even the mildest symptoms, and keep an eye on the state government's exposure site map, which is updated through the day.
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