• Rikki Lambert

Victoria eases restrictions, Opposition and industry want more removed

Health Minister Martin Foley, Premier Daniel Andrews and Deputy Premier James Merlino

Victoria's hospitality density quotas and some QR check-ins will be scrapped on Friday, but mask rules will stay, the state government announced on Thursday.

Premier Daniel Andrews reminded Victorians he had said some time ago that his government we would do everything to normalise this virus.

From 6pm on Friday one person per two square metre density limits in hospitality and entertainment venues will be end, meaning dancefloors can reopen.

QR check-ins will no longer be required in retail, schools and workplaces, however they will remain for hospitality and entertainment patrons to ensure those attending are double-dose vaccinated.

A mandate requiring key industries including meat processing to undertake surveillance testing will be replaced with a recommendation.

Hospital worker bubbles will be scrapped, international arrivals will no longer have to obtain a permit and unvaccinated international traveller hotel quarantine periods will be halved to seven days.

Twice-weekly surveillance testing for school students and staff will continue, with another 24 million rapid antigen tests to be distributed to students.

Education Minister James Merlino said the testing program had prevented more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases from entering schools over the first few weeks, according to Burnet Institute modelling.

Indoor masks rules will remain until at least next Friday with Health Minister Martin Foley to assess whether masks requirements in workplaces can be removed. 

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said Melbourne CBD businesses were "screaming out for a signal" of when office workers can return He called for the state government to "urgently remove" its work from home recommendation, ditch office mask requirements and fund a voucher stimulus scheme for CBD businesses.

The Australian Industry Group called on the government to move more quickly in determining the return to work policy and the removal of masks in offices The Victorian Head of peak employer association Ai Group said on Thursday:

“There is no reason to go slow on making these policy decisions. Let business know now that a return to work change will be made next week and help them to prepare.
“There is no obvious reason to prolong these decisions. We need people back in offices across the state, and especially returning to the CBD and re-energising businesses.

State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was critical of the government's plan to wait another week to announce further changes.

"Get rid of those mask requirements, particularly in office settings. Do it today," he said.