Third step in sight

THE City of Whittlesea is nearly coronavirus-free as a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions looms for metropolitan Melbourne.

The Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS, reported only two active cases of the virus in Whittlesea on Sunday – a dramatic fall from the more than 500 active cases the municipality dealt with during a spike in August.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday an easing of some COVID-19 restrictions, with people living in the metropolitan Melbourne area now able to travel within a 25-kilometre radius of their place of residence, spend as much time as they want exercising outside while appropriately socially-distanced, and return to outdoor sports such as tennis, golf and skateboarding.

Hairdressers will also be allowed to reopen, and people can meet outdoors in groups of up to 10 from two households.

Metropolitan Melbourne is now close to joining regional Victoria in the third step of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

New case numbers in the greater Melbourne area must drop below a two-week average of five per day to trigger the move to the next step. As of yesterday, the two-week average for Melbourne was 7.2.

Mr Andrews said the third step would see retail services reopen and people allowed to go outside for any reason.

He said metropolitan Melbourne was likely to move to the third step by November 1, or sooner if new case numbers continued to drop.

“My commitment to Melburnians: we’ll review this data each and every day this week and when we get to next weekend, if we can move any earlier and do it safely, we will,” he said.

“When we do reach the third step it will also mean we move from ‘stay home’ to ‘stay safe’ – with no restrictions on the reasons to leave home.

“We’ll also be able to go a bit further on home visits too – allowing households to have two people and their dependents visit their home once per day.

“The other aspects of our roadmap – from accommodation to outdoor sport – will also be introduced.

“I know there’ll be plenty of people who want to know when they can head to regional Victoria. And unfortunately, for now, that’s off the cards. As we’ve seen this week, this virus is wildly infectious – and we all need to help protect the hard-won gains of our regional communities.

“Staying safe is more important than ever. So please, keep wearing a mask, keep maintaining your distance – and if you feel sick, get tested and stay home.”