Restrictions re-tightened

Sarah Luke

The story has been updated from the printed edition to reflect a change of active cases in Victoria.

VICTORIA’S state of emergency will be extended, social distancing restrictions have been re-tightened and people must continue to work from home if they can until July 31, as the state’s COVID-19 case numbers hit the highest they have been in two months.

The number of visitors allowed to a home has now been reduced to five, and outside the home, families and friends can meet in groups of up to 10 people.

The change in restrictions came into effect at 11.59pm on Sunday.

Restaurants, pubs, auction halls, community halls, libraries, museums and places of worship will all stay at a maximum of 20 people in any one space until at least July 12.

Gyms, cinemas, theatres and TABs can open, but only with a maximum of 20 people.

Community sport for children and non-contact competition for adults can proceed as planned.

Ski season and accommodation facilities with communal spaces have opened, but with increased screening and safeguards in place.

People who can work from home must work from home until at least July 31, and employers should have a zero tolerance approach to sickness — “having symptoms must mean you go home, and you get tested”.

A new $1500 payment will be available for those who have a confirmed case or are a close contact and who can’t rely on sick leave, to remove the financial incentive for people who choose to ignore advice about self-isolating and go to work instead.

The government will consider putting hotspot suburbs “back into lockdown” if they continue to record high case numbers each day.

The state of emergency will be extended for another four weeks, until 11.59pm on July 19.

This will allow the government to continue to enforce physical distancing and isolation requirements, as well as other directions from the Chief Health Officer.

Victoria Police can issue on-the-spot fines for those not complying with directions, with a dedicated squad of 500 officers undertaking spot checks of venues and homes to ensure compliance.

On-the-spot fines include up to $1652 for individuals and up to $9913 for businesses.

Under the state of emergency, people who don’t comply could also be taken to court and receive a fine of up to $20,000.

Companies face fines of up to $100,000.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the experts advised that, largely, the rising numbers were being driven by families, specifically “families having big gettogethers and not following the advice around distancing and hygiene”.

“In fact, around half of our cases since the end of April have come from transmission inside someone’s home,” he said.

“As we’ve seen across the world, this virus has the ability to turn a few cases into hundreds in a matter of days.”

Mr Andrews emphasised the five visitor rule meant people should only see those they needed to, if they needed to — “not your third cousin, not your third best friend from primary school”.

“Each of us need to be aware that the more people you see and the more often you see them — the more danger you are putting people in,” he said.

“If you do have to see people, keep your distance. “No handshakes and no hugs. Maintain good hygiene. Don’t share food or drinks.

“And if you’re feeling unwell — stay at home. “Don’t visit friends and family. Don’t go on holiday. Don’t go to work. Stay home.”

Mr Andrews described climbing case numbers as a wake-up call.

“… the only thing between us and a second wave is what we do next,” he said.

Last week, Victoria had more than 100 new cases diagnosed, and clicked over 210 confirmed cases in Victoria acquired through unknown transmission.

There were currently 125 active cases in Victoria, including a newly confirmed case in Latrobe City. That is the only active case in Gippsland

Those who feel unwell with any cold or flu-like symptoms must get tested.

These include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or loss of sense of smell.