Flood of booking enquiries

Liz Bell and David Braithwaite

LOCAL accommodation providers have been fielding numerous calls from Melbourne residents following the announcement the “ring of steel” separating regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne may be removed at midnight, Sunday, November 8.

While many local accommodation services have already been flooded with enquiries about bookings from Melbourne residents desperate for a break outside the metropolitan area, most report a “cautious” approach to the news of the regions opening up.

Craig Frith of the Matador Motel, Sale, said he was already getting enquiries for end of November and December, but felt people would wait to see if the “ring of steel” will be really lifted as planned.

“We have been getting enquiries, but my feeling is that holiday makers and day trippers will wait and see before they start booking in large numbers,” he said.

“There is still that sense that it might not happen.”

And while Stratford Caravan Park isn’t exactly booked out yet, manager Louise Perrett said she had been fielding enquiries since the minute the announcement was made.

“People are really keen to get out and they are calling to ask if we are accepting bookings from Melbourne,” she said.

“We tell them, yes, they are very welcome – one of my first bookings was some Melbourne grandparents who haven’t seen their grandkids since last Christmas and can’t wait to get up here.”

Rick Lofthouse at Ibis Styles in Sale said he had no doubt that things would pick up after November 8.

“It’s still early days, but I’m an optimistic person and I’m sure people will want to get out and about when they can.”

This week, Victoria recorded back-to-back days of no increases in coronavirus cases. The previous day Victoria didn’t have a new case was June 9.

In response, Premier Daniel Andrews outlined the easing of restrictions in Melbourne, including the end of lockdown.

From 11.59pm on November 8, the 25 kilometre travel limit in Melbourne and restriction on travelling between Melbourne and regional areas will be removed.

From Wednesday, there were no restrictions for people in metropolitan areas to leave home, with the message changing from “stay home” to “stay safe”.

Melbourne’s caf├ęs, restaurants and pubs reopened on Wednesday, with limits of up to 50 patrons outdoors and 20 indoors.

Density limits, record keeping and COVIDSafe plans still apply. Metropolitan retail businesses which weren’t previously open could do so, and beauty and personal care services also resumed across Melbourne.

Outdoor contact sport for those aged 18 and under and non-contact sport for adults began again.

Melbourne-based personal training, fitness and dance classes can also now be held outdoors with up to 10 people, and the number of people at outdoor pools can increase to 50, subject to density limits.

Libraries and community venues opened for outdoor events, and outdoor entertainment venues can also begin hosting visitors.

Outdoor religious ceremonies can be held with up to 20 people, in addition to those required for the service. Indoor services can be held with up to 10.

In Melbourne, attendance at outdoor weddings has increased to 10 people, not including the celebrant or photographer, and funerals to 20. People must still work from home if they can.

Mr Andrews confirmed people in Melbourne could have two visitors, plus dependants, to their home from Wednesday.

“As we take these steady steps towards reopening, the message remains the same: please, stay safe. And if you have symptoms, you must get tested,” Premier Andrews said.

From November 9, Melbourne will move to the same level of restrictions currently in regional Victoria.

“We want to reach COVID normal by Christmas and right now, we’re on track to do that,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s why we’ve got to keep going – all of us. Understanding that even though restrictions may ease, our personal responsibility in all this doesn’t.

“We have come so far and given so much.”

Mr Andrews said Victorians would continue wearing masks until at least the end of the year.