Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino has confirmed at a press conference today that the state’s current lockdown will continue for at least another seven days.
With six new COVID-19 cases reported overnight, bringing the total number in this outbreak to 60, Merlino said if the state did not get this outbreak under control, cases “will explode”.
In Melbourne the five reasons to leave home will remain in place, these are: shopping for food and supplies, authorised work and study, care and caregiving, exercise, and getting vaccinated. People will be able to travel further for exercise and shopping, with an expanded 10km radius.
With no community transmission in regional Victoria this week, regional restrictions are proposed to begin easing from 11:59pm tomorrow night.
That will see a lifting of the travel restrictions and the ‘five reasons’. Hospitality venues can reopen for seated service only, to a maximum of 50 and with a one person per four square metre rule in place.
Victoria is also expanding its QR requirements to make it mandatory in retail settings like supermarkets and shops. The 15-minute threshold will also be removed so anyone entering a shop or a cafe will need to check-in.
The Acting Premier said: “What we’re seeing now is something else – something even more serious. At least one in 10 current cases have caught this virus from a stranger.
“People brushing against each other in a small shop. Getting a take-away coffee from the same cafe. Being in the same place, at the same time for mere moments.
“Just walking past someone you’ve never met can mean the virus is jumping to a whole new network. And when you don’t know someone – you don’t know their name or where they live – you’re looking for one person in 6.6 million.
“The best way to stop the virus is vaccination. But as we know, with only two per cent of the population fully vaccinated – if we let this thing run then cases will explode.
“If that happens, it’s our most vulnerable – our parents and grandparents, Victorians with underlying conditions or compromised immunity – who will pay the price.
“It’s why, on the advice of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, the current restrictions will remain in place in Melbourne for a further seven days, with some small changes. This will give us a full 14 days – one full cycle of the virus – to make sure we understand how and where this mutation is moving.”
Merlino also confirmed the Government is extending its financial support for business affected by the latest lockdown, with an additional $209m in grants.
The Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund will provide businesses holding an eligible liquor licence and food certificate with an extra $3500 grant per premises, making it up to $7000 in total.
The Business Costs Assistance Program is also extended to offer additional grants of $2500 for eligible businesses directly affected by the circuit-breaker industry restrictions, including restaurants and cafes, event suppliers, accommodation providers and non-essential retailers, increasing the total grant to $5000.
The Acting Premier also said both he and the Victorian Treasurer have spoken to the Federal Government about re-introducing a JobKeeper-style payment for Victorian business.
“A lot of Victorian businesses are doing it tough right now and it’s our clear expectation that the Federal Government will provide them with the support they deserve,” he said.
The press conference also saw Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton raise concerns about how this variant is being spread.
“This variant of concern is starting to show up in places where normally it would be less likely,” he said.
“So the Brighton Beach Hotel, that was an outdoor dining setting, well ventilated, you wouldn’t expect transmission to occur. We still had it as an exposure site, we still informed people to test and isolate until returning a negative [result], but in fact all of those people will need to remain in quarantine, as transmission has occurred there.
“That’s not something that we routinely see, and we didn’t routinely see it in 2020, but we have to bear in mind that all the variants of concern now are really a step-up to some degree. This Kappa variant, as it’s now called, is not the most infectious, but it is more infectious than anything we saw in the beginning and the middle of 2020, so we have to bear that in mind.”
With Victorian venues now enduring their fourth lockdown since March last year, support is more crucial than ever, see how you can help Victorian venues.