• Jason Regan

Victoria's long term COVID roadmap revealed

Melbourne and regional Victoria will reunite in a matter of days, as residents get a glimpse of life beyond the state's next COVID-19 vaccination milestones.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced the latest round of roadmap rules will take effect from 6 pm on Friday, with the state forecast to reach 80 per cent full vaccination of people 16 and over sometime next weekend.

Statewide travel can resume under the changes, reconnecting Melbourne with the regions for the first time since the city's 77-day lockdown lifted.

"That means it is a proper Melbourne Cup long weekend, informally, for people to travel, to book holidays and do all sorts of things," Mr Andrews told reporters.

In addition, masks no longer need to be worn outdoors, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail can reopen for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.

Students from every year level across the state also return to full-time, face-to-face learning on November 1 before the public holiday that Tuesday. The premier acknowledged school settings would remain "a little bit different" to normal, given those under 12 cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Longer-term, Mr Andrews laid out a plan for the state once 90 per cent of people 12 and over are full vaccinated, forecast on or around November 24. All venue caps and density quotients will be scrapped at that point, along with mandatory indoor masks outside of high-risk or low-vaccinated settings such as hospitals and schools. Limits on home and outdoor gatherings will also be shelved, paving the way for Christmas to return to normal.

But Mr Andrews warned Victoria's "vaccinated economy" would remain into 2022, with those who refuse to get the jab excluded from workplaces, venues and major events.

"For the purpose of the economy, for the purposes of living your life, the only rules are going to be: if you're not vaccinated, you're not getting in," he said.

That includes fans wanting to go to the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, where Mr Andrews is hopeful 80,000-plus cricket fans will gather for day one.

At the 90 per cent target, vaccine passport requirements will also be expanded to staff and patrons of non-essential retail traders including bookshops and shoe stores.

Some 73.7 per cent of Victorians 16 and over have now received both doses, and Mr Andrews said the state remains on track to become one of the most vaccinated places in the world.

Despite the good news, Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy does not share the premiers optimistic appraisal of the current situation.

Mr Guy believes the good news issued by the premier on Sunday only applies to those who currently have an income. Guy also believes the plan announced by the premier deviates considerably from what was agreed on by the national cabinet.

"The premier says today is a positive day but only if you've got an income like him," the opposition leader said.
"For all the small businesses in Victoria and those who are still unable to open it is not a positive day. They are going without an income for another week.
"Common sense should apply in this circumstance, we've got to get retail open, we must have sensible limits in hospitality and we've got to get gyms open right now".

Mr Guy also criticized the Premiers plan to wait until the state reaches 90% double jab vaccination rates before opening up fully.

"It's very straightforward. What the government says will apply at 90% should apply at 80%," said Mr Guy.
"When we get to double jab 80% then the state should open up sensibly and reasonably.
"The concept of waiting until we reach 90% is too slow and is against what the national cabinet agreed on."