Restaurants, cafes, and pubs will be allowed to open their doors to patrons again in Victoria from the start of June, under an easing of coronavirus restrictions in the Australian state.
But the opposition is concerned the step is coming too late for some businesses, who have struggled financially only being allowed to serve takeaway since late March.
Venues will be able to host up to 20 people in an enclosed space from June 1.
That number is expected to increase to 50 from June 22 and to 100 during the second half of July.
Labor Premier Daniel Andrews says hospitality is a big part of Victoria’s story, but both venue-owners ad patrons will have an “extensive set of rules” to follow in the coming weeks.
“We need to make sure that we’re getting people back to work as quickly as we possibly can, but it’s got to be done safely,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“When people can go out and have coffee or a meal, we will be less talking about people staying at home. We’ll be asking people to stay safe.”
Rules will be finalised in consultation with the hospitality industry in the coming week, but patrons will need to leave their name and contact details to enter a venue and keep 1.5 metres apart.
Staff will also have to be screened to ensure they don’t have symptoms.
For the time being, pubs will only be allowed to have people inside for sit down meals and won’t be able to open their public bars.
The state government is comfortable making the change after another 50,000 tests conducted in the state over the past week showed community transmission remains low.
Out of a total of 233,000 tests so far, only 39 people have tested positive without being linked to a known outbreak or an overseas traveller.
Victoria has moved more slowly than other states in allowing patrons back into eating and dining venues, with NSW outlets allowed to have 10 patrons since Friday.
The premier said by waiting a little longer, Victorian restaurants will be able to open with more people, and may eventually be able to fully reopen sooner.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said some businesses can’t afford to wait.
“Daniel Andrews, by dragging the chain, by delaying the opening of these businesses, could well be putting them out of business permanently,” he told reporters.
Members of Victoria’s public health team and Victoria Police will help ensure the rules for venues are followed.
Andrews said it was ultimately up to businesses to decide whether it was financially viable for them to reopen with 20 patrons indoors.
“They’re ultimate decisions that businesses have to make,” he said.
The Victorian Tourism Industry Council said the latest announcement moved the Andrews government from being behind on easing restrictions to being one of the most progressive states.
Victoria recorded another seven COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the state’s total so far to 1,561.
Two of the new cases are linked to the outbreak at Cedar Meats in Melbourne, bringing the total cases at the Brooklyn facility to 100.
Three cases were found in hotel quarantine and the other two cases are being investigated.
Victoria Police fined 16 people for breaching restrictions in the 24 hours to 1 p.m. on Saturday, including a group found at the Twelve Apostles.
By Marnie Banger