By Jackson Russell

FOLLOWING regional Victoria entering the second step of the State Government’s road map out of COVID-19 restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews has tipped a move to the third step could take place within days.

The four reasons to leave the house remain in the second step, but public gatherings are now allowed between five people from a maximum of two households outdoors.

Single people living alone and single parents are also now allowed to have one nominated visitor in a ‘single person bubble’.

Restaurants and cafes remain takeaway only, Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s playgrounds reopened yesterday, while libraries are offering a click and collect service.

Council said it would look to reopen other community facilities in line with government advice and following appropriate risk assessment processes.

While outdoor pools were able to open yesterday, council’s pools traditionally open for summer and are not ready for use.

When the Macedon Ranges Shire, and the remainder of regional Victoria, move to the third step, it will mean the four reasons to leave the house will be removed, and people will start to see the reopening of dining at hospitality businesses, and larger public gatherings.

Step three will occur when the daily average of new cases in regional Victoria is less than five and there have been no cases with an unknown source in the last 14 days. Regional Victoria’s 14-day average was sitting at 3.9 as of yesterday.

Under step three, outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people under 18 and non-contact sport for adults, within gathering and density limits, can resume, while outdoor skate parks and outdoor fitness for 10 people will reopen.

People will also be able to travel within regional Victoria and accommodation places will reopen, with caps per the social bubble.

After initially being placed in the last step, beauty therapy salons and pet groomers will also be able to reopen in the third step.

The State Government also announced a $3 billion support package to help Victorian businesses survive through to the end of COVID-19 restrictions.

More than $1.1 billion in cash grants will support small and medium sized businesses that are most affected by coronavirus restrictions including $822 million as part of the third round of the Business Support Fund.

About 75,000 eligible businesses with payrolls up to $10 million will receive grants of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on their size.

Hospitality businesses will also receive support with a dedicated $251 million Licenced Venue Fund and the waiver of liquor licence fees in 2021.

Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas said she understood the sacrifice everyone was making but the strategy was working.

“We have different roadmaps for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria because they are experiencing the virus differently and regional Victoria moved to the second step of re-opening,” she said.

“We have seen how quickly this virus can spread and it is critical that we continue to slow movement across our metropolitan suburbs, regional towns and between these areas to slow the spread of the virus, so we can take cautious steps towards reopening guided by dates and data.”

While regional Victoria is well on its way out of lockdown, the State Opposition has called for a Royal Commission into Victoria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said a Royal Commission would deliver answers.

“There have been too many deaths, too much damage done and too many lies told. Victorians deserve the truth and only a Royal Commission will deliver it,” he said.

“We must ensure that the gross errors that have done so much damage are never repeated so that Victoria will be better prepared when the next pandemic hits.”