Victoria’s peak tourism and police groups have welcomed the scrapping of the so-called “ring of steel,” reuniting Melbourne with the regions.
In the latest round of COVID-19 rule easing, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed regional Victoria will be accessible to Melbourne residents from midnight on Nov 8.
Felicia Mariani, chief executive of the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC), said it was news operators had been seeking after nine months of “the nation’s harshest lockdown restrictions.”
“Regional Victoria needs people from Melbourne travelling across our state to fully kick start any hope of recovery,” she said.
Two TV advertising campaigns have also been launched to encourage Melburnians to flock to the bushfire-affected regions of Gippsland and the state’s high country.
The removal of the “ring of steel” means an end to vehicle checkpoints following several high-profile arrests.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said it would allow more members to get back into stations and communities.
“This will also come as a relief to our members who have been placed in the unenviable position of upholding restrictions which have impacted the lives of so many Victorians,” he said in a statement.
Andrews also announced cinemas and theatres would reopen with capacity initially capped at 20 patrons before rising to 100 from Nov. 22.
Village Entertainment said its Victorian cinemas would start reopening from Thursday, with guests required to wear masks while not consuming food or drink and adhere to social distancing.
Newly re-elected Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp described Sunday’s announcements as “a significant step in the right direction” but wants a further expansion to patron limits for restaurants, cafes and pubs.
“It’s important we continue to advocate for more flexibility for the hospitality industry to increase capacity numbers sooner while still prioritising safety,” she wrote on Twitter, Nov 8.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said a plan is needed for the return of functions, events and office workers.
“Victoria needs a roadmap for the safe return of office workers to revitalise the CBD, with many businesses struggling to make ends meet,” he said in a statement.
“While the Victorian Chamber welcomes the tweaks to the caps on indoor dining patrons, we really need to see our levels lifted to align with NSW by 23 November, when the interstate border opens, or we risk losing medium and large scale functions and events.”
The VTIC said the state’s events sector was leaking tens of millions of dollars in business to New South Wales and Queensland.
“We need a clear plan and timeline for how the events industry can start its revival, so we can fight to retain business here in Victoria, where it belongs,” Mariani said.
By Callum Godde