Restrictions are eased, but caution is urged

Sarah Luke

PREMIER Daniel Andrews has announced social distancing restrictions will ease in Victoria from 11.59pm tomorrow night.

People will be able to leave the house for the existing four reasons, plus a fifth new reason – to visit friends and family.

Up to five visitors will be allowed to visit someone’s home.

A statement from the Premier’s office confirmed it is only about “seeing those you need to, if you need to”.

“It’s not about having a rotating roster of acquaintances and associates – or your third best friend from primary school – over for a visit”.

Groups of 10 will also be able to participate in outdoor and recreational activities, like hiking, fishing and golf – adhering to social distancing.

No overnight stays or camping will be allowed, but a number of national and state parks will reopen.

Mr Andrews said those who can work from home, should continue to work from home.

Face-to-face learning at school is expected to return before the end of term two, with a more specific announcement expected imminently.

Training for professional sport, such as AFL and rugby league, will be able to resume tomorrow night.

These restrictions stand in place under a renewed State of Emergency, which will be reviewed on May 31.

The announcement follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s three-step plan out of the coronavirus shutdown, unveiled on Friday.

States and territories will set their own pace and decide the timings for each step, with Mr Andrews adopting some, but not all of the plan.

Unlike Mr Morrison’s model, caf├ęs and restaurants are not yet allowed to offer table service in Victoria, with Mr Andrews saying seating only 10 patrons would not be a viable business model.

National Cabinet will review the national model’s progress every three weeks, and the Prime Minister confirmed the steps forward might stop, but Australia would aim to not go back.

Victoria was the last state to lift social distancing restrictions, after a COVID-19 outbreak at a meat processing factory in Melbourne drove up case numbers.

So far, 76 cases have been linked to the Cedar Meats cluster, as the factory has closed its doors for 14 days.

The state government today announced new rapid response teams to prevent, respond to and limit outbreaks as part of a $20 million coronavirus surveillance boost.

The government outlined its plan for a new ‘outbreak unit’ within the Department of Health and Human Services’ public health team, including new squads that will undertake testing, contact tracing and deep cleaning as soon as clusters are identified.

The squads will also visit high risk facilities, businesses and industries, work with local services on infection control and prevention, and step in to manage high-risk cases.

In addition, mobile testing units will be deployed to communities that show spikes in cases.

As of deadline, there were 1494 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Victoria, which is seven more than Sunday.

One of those was connected to the Cedar Meats outbreak, four were connected to those returning from overseas travel, and two are being investigated.

Thirty cases, not connected to overseas travel or an outbreak, were detected by the state government’s recent testing blitz.

On Sunday, there were still 11 confirmed cases in Wellington Shire, with one active.

Victoria Police conducted 719 spot checks across the state, and issued 44 fines, including six people going to view the Twelve Apostles in a closed area, and a male who has been fined twice already for loitering in public places in Frankston.

Since March 21, police have conducted 42,370 spot checks.

About 161,000 Victorians have been tested in the past two weeks, with a target of an additional 50,000 tests this week, and 150,000 by the end of May.

People with symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or loss of sense of smell – however mild – should get tested.

Sale has a testing facility at Inglis Medical Centre.