From 11.59pm on Tuesday May 12, Victorians will be allowed to have up to five guests visiting their homes.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the changes at a press conference on Monday morning.
“They should be family and friends,” he said. “After all, those are the people that mean the most to us, and that’s where it’s hurt – people not being able to connect with the people that are most important to them.”
But while having friends and family over for dinner is back on the cards, Andrews cautioned against overdoing it.
“I know this will come as a welcome relief, but I need to be clear: although these are the first steps back towards normalcy, they’re not an invitation to host a dinner party every night of the week. It’s not about having a rotating roster of acquaintances and associates, or your third best friend from primary school over for a visit. This is about seeing those you need to, if you need to.”
Victorians will also be allowed to gather in groups of up to 10 to exercise (outdoors only), or to attend community services such as group counselling and AA meetings. “There’ll be physical distancing and all of the other usual arrangements,” the premier added.
Up to 20 people will be permitted to attend funerals (30 for outdoor services), and 10 guests will be permitted at weddings.
In terms of travel, state parks will reopen, and Victorians can drive to the beach for a surf or to trails for hikes, but camping won’t be permitted. “There will not be bookings at hotels and things of that nature,” Andrews said. “We don’t think that is appropriate.”
With regards to bars, cafes and restaurants, the premier estimated that it would be another three weeks before venues would be able to open for more than takeaway.
“The feedback from many businesses is that at just 10 patrons, it’s hard to be viable,” he said. “I think takeaway will be a feature for a long time. If we can supplement and complement that with table service at more than 10, there’s every chance for a more viable model. That’s our thinking.”
161,000 Victorians have been tested for coronavirus in the last couple of weeks as part of a massive testing blitz, and 30 new cases have been recorded.
“The last thing we want to do is follow the example that so many countries have given us,” Andrews said. “If you relax too many rules too quickly, then we’ll find ourselves back here and – indeed – worse. We’ll find ourselves in a lockdown even harder than the one we’re coming out of.”
The news comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement on Friday that Australia’s coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in three stages. It’ll be up to state leaders to implement each stage and set their own timelines.
In stage one, five people will be allowed to visit a private home; gatherings of 10 people will be allowed outdoors; and some retail stores, cafes and restaurants can reopen, subject to social distancing guidelines. Libraries, community centres and playgrounds may also be reopened, and local and regional travel may resume.
In stage two, gatherings of 20 will be allowed at homes; gyms, beauty salons, cinemas, galleries and camping grounds may reopen; and interstate travel restrictions will be relaxed.
In stage three, gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed; staff will return to most workplaces; and all interstate travel – and potentially travel to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands – will recommence.
In New South Wales, two visitors are already permitted at home, and restrictions will be eased further this Friday. The Queensland government relaxed rules in time for Mother’s Day. Western Australia already allows gatherings of up to 10 people, and this will increase to 20 when more rules are relaxed on Monday May 18. Many of South Australia’s restrictions will be lifted on the same day.
The aim is for all states and territories to reach the final stage by July.
“This is safe, this is cautious, this is appropriate. We’re not other states. We face our own unique challenges and we need to be appropriate to those,” Andrews said. “We need to be cautious.”
Victorians are told to assume these changes will be in effect for at least three weeks. A renewed state of emergency is now in place until 11.59pm on Sunday May 31.
“[In] June, following more testing, following the experience of these three-and-a-half weeks, that’ll guide us,” Andrews said. “We’ll have more to say about cafes at that time, [and] restaurants and a whole range of other issues.”