Victorians are no longer obliged to wear a face covering in hospitality venues and offices, the Andrews government announced as it lifted a range of CCP virus restrictions for the Australian summer.
Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled the significant rule changes on Sunday as the state entered its 37th consecutive day without detecting a new virus case. Victoria imposed Australia’s toughest restrictions to combat the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as coronavirus.
As of midnight, the only areas that will still enforce mask wearing are indoor places where mass gatherings may occur, Andrews said at a press conference.
“They must be worn in indoor shopping centers and supermarkets, and department stores, for instance Kmart or Myer, IKEA, Bunnings, JB Hi-Fi, just to give you a few example,” he said. He added that the rule also applied to confined areas where social distancing cannot be practiced, such as public transport and taxis.
The further easing of mask rules comes two weeks after outdoor face covering restrictions were lifted. Despite the significant changes, people have been told they should carry a mask with them at all times.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Paul Guerra had called on the Andrews government for a reassessment of mask rules at the start of the week. On Monday, the government allowed private businesses to welcome back 25 percent of their work forces but said that staff, even when sitting at their desk, would still have to wear masks. A second phase of office workers are set to be allowed to return on Jan. 11, bringing office capacities up to 50 percent.
Now that capacity limits have been relaxed, restaurant, cafe, and pub owners are looking forward to welcoming more patrons.
Andrews said as Victoria moves towards a “COVID normal” summer, hospitality venues will still have to keep to a density limit of one person per two square meter. Smaller businesses must stay under 25 people indoors or until their density limit is reached. Customers in pubs will no longer have to be seated for service.
With the greater freedoms, businesses will have to follow strict rules for keep electronic records of passing customers.
“It is important if there is a case of an outbreak, it will make the the job of contact tracing easier, not easy, but easier,” Andrews said of the contact tracing requirements.
Weddings, funerals, and religious events will be required to comply with the social distancing rule of one person per two square meters, scrapping the blanket rule limiting gatherings. Up to 30 people will now be allowed for home gatherings.
The eases in restrictions comes as the hotel quarantine program restarts. Prior to Victoria’s 37 days straight of no COVID-19 infections, it was embroiled in a wave of virus infections with the government imposing a lockdown that stretched beyond 100 days. Failures within the quarantine system were blamed for the outbreak that resulted in over 800 deaths and 18,000 cases.
The new quarantine system has a quota of no more than 160 overseas returnees per day for the time being.
Andrews said that though big steps have been taken, “we know that without a vaccine, we will see cases.
“We will see outbreaks. but we are very confident we will be able to control those. That control is underpinned by everyone playing their part and will be undermined if people do not,” he said.