Victoria locks down another week, regional restrictions eased, AusVeg calls for federal compensation
Acting Premier James Merlino has released a statement declaring that the one-week 'circuit breaker' lockdown will go for an additional week, but with different arrangements for metropolitan Melbourne compared with regional Victoria.
The existing restrictions, such as only 5 permissible reasons to leave home, will remain for metropolitan Melbourne. However, students can also return to school and a broader range of outdoor business activities can resume.
Regional Victorians will be able to travel freely around the state so long as they do not enter metropolitan Melbourne. Melburnians will not be allowed to travel to regional Victoria.
Small scale gatherings in regional Victoria will be allowed but it is unlikely that community sport can resume this weekend, as some country football and netball leagues had hoped to be able to do earlier in the week. FlowNews24 is seeking confirmation from the Victorian government but it appears that regional Victorians can travel within their border bubble communities interstate to resume participation in country sport across the border.
FlowNews24 is also seeking to establish whether a Victorian sporting club such as Murrayville Bulldogs in the South Australian Mallee Football and Netball Leagues could travel for an away game interstate away from the Victorian regional public gathering restrictions.
The New South Wales government however has indicated they expect restrictions that apply to regional Victorians in Victoria must continue to be observed if they are visiting New South Wales.
The 'five reasons' for leaving home no longer apply in regional Victoria, while public gatherings in public places can accommodate up to 10 people. However, regional Victorians can not receive visitors in their homes.
Church and other religious gatherings and services can resume capped at 50 people, but weddings can only have 10 attendees.
Restaurants and cafes can host up to 50 people, and a raft of businesses and community facilities can open in line with density limits. Regional businesses will however have to check the identification of everyone they serve and QR code requirements will be mandatory in retail settings such as supermarkets and shops.
Acting Premier Merlino said in the statement:
"We know it’s an extra ask on staff and customers – but ultimately, it’s about keeping your community safe."
The Acting Premier acknowledged the continuing economic impact of the lockdown, adding to last week's $250 million compensation package an additional $209 million for this week:
"We know this will have a big impact on businesses, which is why we’ll be extending our financial support, with an additional $209 million in grants.
"At the end of another seven days, we want to be in a position to begin carefully easing restrictions for Melbourne.
The state government explained that the new package would be targeted at metropolitan Melbourne businesses still restricted from trading, and regional venues such as nightclubs and amusement parks, that would still be constrained by even the relaxed regional restrictions.
The CEO of Ausveg, James Whiteside, spoke with FlowNews24 on Wednesday morning before the lockdown was extended. AusVeg said if, as was then speculated, the lockdown was extended, the federal government needed to compensate Victorian food producers and other businesses:
"We're looking to the federal government to do more, as is everyone else.
"Through the last lockdown the whole country relied on federal support, via Jobkeeper and Jobseeker. The federal government is the only government that's got the pockets deep enough to really make a substantial contribution."
Federal Finance Minister and South Australian senior Liberal Simon Birmingham was non-committal in Canberra on Wednesday about providing more federal support for the state because of the lockdown:
"We have said over the course of the last week we would continue to monitor the situation that relates to Victoria and respond accordingly."