Sunday, November 22, 2020
Science

New rules for Victorians on masks, home visits and workplaces

New rules for Victorians on masks, home visits and workplaces
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Babies under 12 months old won’t be included in the total of 30 people allowed into homes for holiday celebration. The change to the cap on private gatherings will come into effect on December 13 to accomodate for the Jewish holidays of Hanukkah.

As of 11.59pm Sunday night, Victorians will be able to welcome 15 people into their homes, up from the current cap of two. Outdoor gatherings at parks and beaches will increase to 50 people.

On the same day that Victoria recorded 23 consecutive days of no new coronavirus cases or deaths, Premier Daniel Andrews also said city workers could begin to return to the office from the end of the month – with strict density requirements and cleaning protocols in place.

“We will begin a slow, steady and safe return to work for those who have been working from home. That is to say 25 per cent of staff will be able to be in the office, and it is mainly offices, 75 per cent will still need to work from home and we will make further announcements over the course of the coming weeks and months,” he said.

While masks are still required in all inside settings, Mr Andrews said people would only need to wear them outside when they cannot maintain a safe distance from others.

Mr Andrews gave an example of visiting Bunnings to demonstrate the new rules.

Premier Daniel Andrews announces the easing of some restrictions. Credit:Chris Hopkins

“If you go to Bunnings and you are inside the store, you are wearing a mask. If you are in the car park, you do not have to wear your mask,” he said.

“But if you are queueing up for a sausage, and you are with other people, and you are simply not keeping a distance, you are part of a crowd, you need to put the mask on. Carry the mask with you. Common sense drives this.

“If you’re headed for a quiet stroll around the neighbourhood, you won’t need to wear a mask – but you will need to carry one, in case the situation changes. I know for some people, they’ll think this is too slow and still too restrictive.

“But the point is, masks are a small sacrifice that help keep all of us safe.”

Hospitality limits increased

From 11.59pm on Sunday night Victorian hospitality venues will be able to host 100 people indoors with the one person per four square metres for large venues.

But smaller venues will also be able to increase their patronage based on a new one person per two square metre rule.

“For smaller ones, we have been able to come up with an innovative way, moving to one person per two square metres for those smaller venues. That means they’ll be able to have more people inside but they are capped at a maximum of 50,” Mr Andrews said.

“We will be speaking with industry, whether it is pubs, hotels, bars, restaurants, all of that sector, to make sure that they fully understand these new rules.”

Other eased restrictions from 11.59 tonight:

  • Universities and TAFE students will return to classes on site for some studies;
  • Gyms will open up to a maximum of 150 people in groups of 20, with one person per four square metres;
  • Indoor physical recreation and sport can commence with 150 people in 150 people, in groups of 20, one per four square metres;
  • Outdoor sport can commence with 500 people, with groups of 50 following the one per four square metres as well;
  • Indoor pools can host 150 people and outdoor pools will now host 300 people;
  • Skate parks and indoor trampolining centres will increase to 150 people;
  • Religious ceremonies can take place indoors with 150 people and outdoors with 300 people;
  • Weddings and funerals, both indoors and outdoors, can be 150 people, with density requirements. Weddings at home will need to follow the normal home visitors rule of 15 people maximum;
  • Larger facilities such as the galleries, cinemas and museums can open for 25 per cent of their capacity;
  • Drive in cinemas have no caps on patrons;
  • Casinos and gaming machine venues will be able to go to 150 people but every second electronic gaming machine will be turned off, so as to keep a distance between patrons; and
  • Large sporting venues will be able to increase patronage to 25 per cent of their capacity.
  • Accommodation providers will be able to cater to groups of one household plus up to 15 people, with density reqiurements in communal areas;
  • Karaoke venues, arcades, escape rooms and bingo centres will be able to accomodate 150 people at a time with density limits;
  • There are no longer any restrictions on visitors within hospitals;
  • For real estate inspections and auctions, 20 people are now allowed inside and 50 outdoors.
  • Strip clubs can now operate with up to 150 people for seated service only and group limits of 20 with social distancing requirements; and
  • 50 people can now attend brothels.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the number of active cases in the state had dropped to one – an immunocompromised person who remains in hospital.

The last case of unknown transmission in Victoria was recorded on October 29. Extending that streak to Thursday would meet the state government’s goal for “COVID-normal”, which would trigger a further easing of restrictions.

Victoria’s next steps to ‘COVID-normal’ will be announced on December 6, Premier Daniel Andrews has foreshadowed.

“I will be before you again on December 6 to announce further changes, talking about what further steps we can take, as we get closer to that … COVID-safe summer,” Mr Andrews said.

“So Christmas [is] 30 people to your house. From tonight, masks must be worn inside, outside carry the mask and put it on if you cannot distance. Keep your 1.5m from other people, and you can have 15 people to your home over the course of a day.

“The key message is, Victorians have done an amazing job and build something that is so, so precious. But it is fragile, and each of us needs to play our part. These rules are a reflection of the best public health advice.”

Viral fragments detected in Melbourne’s west

Another pop-up testing site was set up in Point Cook in Melbourne on Saturday after fragments of COVID-19 were found in a wastewater sample from the Altona sewage catchment, according to the Department of Health. There are now five testing sites servicing the affected area.

Anyone with even mild cold or flu symptoms in Altona, Altona Meadows, Laverton, Point Cook or Sanctuary Lakes is being urged to get tested immediately.

Authorities also want symptomatic visitors to any of those suburbs between Monday, November 16 and Wednesday, November 18 to get tested.

The fragment detection in Melbourne’s west was the third instance of the virus being detected in the state this week after samples from Portland and Benalla also showed up fragments on Tuesday.

There were 117 tests undertaken in Benalla on Friday, and 42 in Portland on Saturday with authorities expecting further demand on Sunday.

No positive results have yet surfaced from the wastewater alerts but Professor Sutton maintained sewage testing was a useful public health tool.

“We think it’s accurate but the issue is that people can continue to excrete the virus for some weeks after they have recovered,” he said on Sunday.

“When we have a callout for people to get tested because we have detected it in sewage, we don’t know if that’s because there’s a new case that’s emerged who’s active and infectious or whether someone who has been a case and has recovered and is still three or four weeks from that recovery has moved into an area.”

  • With Tom Cowie, Natassia Chrysanthos

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