Finally, some relief

Liz Bell

THIS week’s announcement of a move to the third step for regional Victoria brought a mixture of celebration, confusion, relief and frustration.

There are some things people still can’t do, but thankfully, many they can.

Travel within regional Victoria is back on the agenda in time for the school holidays, with Victoria Police confirming people can pass through Melbourne to get where they need to go.

All accommodation, including caravan parks and campgrounds with shared facilities, can reopen in regional Victoria, with some restrictions on group travel.

Personal services such as beauty services and tattoo parlours are open for all services where face masks can be worn.

Eateries are open, and can serve patrons outdoors, with a cap of 50 seated patrons per venue, and an updated ‘two square metre’ density limit in place.

Indoors, venues can open with a cap of 10 seated customers per space – with up to two spaces per venue – and in line with the existing ‘four square metre’ density rule.

Tables must be spaced at least 1.5m apart, cleaned after every customer and the details of all patrons must be kept.

Weddings in regional Victoria can now have up to 10 people and funerals are capped at 20 mourners.

The “last step” is likely to be taken on November 23, if there have been no new cases statewide in the two weeks prior.

There’s no doubt cafés, restaurants and pubs have welcomed diners back with open arms, albeit predominantly for outside dining and with limits on numbers.

Stratford Avon Hotel licensee Terry Watt said the easing of tough restrictions was a “step in the right direction” and meant spring had certainly sprung after months of gloomy news.

“That news to me was like spring came today – beautiful, love it,” he said.

“It’s great, it certainly didn’t feel like this on September 1.”

Mr Watt said the phone had been running hot since the news restrictions were eased, and he and his staff had spent the days leading up to the opening on Thursday scrambling to prepare the outdoor areas to accommodate as many as he could while maintaining social distancing.

Mr Watt said eateries now had plenty of experience meeting COVID-19 requirements, and mask wearing was just a small extra ask that could be easily managed.

Beauty salon operators are also smiling, despite having to cop a large drop in takings.

In line with the state-wide mandatory mask wearing rule, facial skin treatments, which make up between 30 and 50 per cent of most salon work, are banned.

Jane Atkinson from Polish’d Nail Salon, Maffra said she was ecstatic at being given the go ahead to open, and was ready for Thursday’s opening with a full client list.

“I was actually shopping in Traralgon when I heard the radio in a shop, and I just let out a little ‘whoop, we can open’,” she said.

“As soon as that news got out, we had about 100 bookings, so it’s clear people have really missed these types of services.”

Relief was the biggest emotion for Adrienne Eouzaid of The Ticklish Turtle Café in Stratford, who said the restrictions had allowed her some quiet time to “sit back and refocus” on her core business of being a coffee house.

“The emphasis on my business had changed and become quite stressful as things got too busy, so now I have gone back to what I started with and I’m sticking with it,” she said.

“It’s more manageable, back to just the seven quality coffees, home baked goods and a more intimate experience. Obviously the bottom line has been affected, but it’s a much happier business.

“I don’t care about the money because I have no expectations now – none – it’s just been a gift”.