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Russel Northe MLA:
New Regional COVID Rules a Mixed Bag

Mixed views on COVID-19 restrictions for Regional Victorians.

By Portal Admin - 25th October 2020 - Back to News

Member for Morwell Russell Northe has indicated that the State Governments announcement of a modest easing of COVID-19 restrictions for Regional Victorians has been met with mixed views.

For example, Mr Northe said that whilst the increase of patrons allowed at hospitality venues was welcomed in some quarters many others in the small business sector are unable to cater for additional patrons due to the size of their establishment and the social distancing rules that apply.

"Enabling the sector to have up to 70 persons outdoors and 40 indoors might seem like a positive step, but given restrictions on social distancing and the one person per four square metre remains, small cafs and restaurants wont see any increase in customers because they simply dont have the area or space" Mr Northe said.

"The Premier could have announced that clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes can have up to 200 people inside their venue, but that doesnt assist businesses operating in smaller venues.

I have raised this matter multiple times in that the one person per four square metre rule needs urgent reviewing as it continues to stifle many regional businesses in reopening to some meaningful capacity" Mr Northe continued.

Mr Northe said he was pleased that libraries and toy libraries were able to reopen, and that the number of persons attending religious gatherings had increased slightly for up to 20 people albeit far from ideal.

"I have received a lot of contact from persons who have expressed their strong views about the limitations upon attendees allowed at religious services, weddings and most importantly funerals. I share those same concerns particularly in that many individuals and even family members are being denied the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one as funerals are currently restricted to 20 persons; yet in other settings the number of persons allowed in less formal settings are far greater" Mr Northe said.

The re-opening of indoor swimming pools even in a limited capacity was a common-sense decision according to Mr Northe.

"I am pleased for the swimming fraternity and learn to swim operators who have been closed for some time, despite outdoor pools being open in Regional Victoria. I have raised this very matter in Parliament and advocated to multiple Ministers how important learn to swim lessons are for our children and for that to be acknowledged is a positive step" Mr Northe stated.

"I note the Government have stated that other indoor recreational activities such as dance, ballet, gymnastics and other non-contact pursuits can recommence in Regional Victoria from 1 November, for persons under the age of 18. Given we already have students and children back in school and in many instances in classrooms of 25 or more children, it has been difficult to fathom why it has taken so long for these activities to start up again, but nonetheless the many small business operators and their students will no doubt be relieved" Mr Northe said.

Mr Northe indicated his disappointment on behalf of other indoor sport and recreation providers who still remain in limbo as to when they can reopen.

"Indoor contact sports for children and indoor sport and recreation pursuits for adults that are so important to the physical health and mental health and well-being for adults and children alike are still closed, which is not only impacting businesses but their clients as well", Mr Northe said.

"Gymnasiums, squash, basketball, martial arts, badminton and a variety of other pursuits face an uncertain future and whilst some activities can commence for children, many businesses are reliant upon adults as their clientele" Mr Northe continued.

Mr Northe said he had also received multiple correspondence from persons who remain uncertain as to the intent and functionality of people visiting ones home and the abolishment of previous household bubbles.

"Some people have raised their view that the new rules will make family visitations even more difficult with only two persons plus their dependents being able to visit on any one day.

Previously you could have conceivably have five adults from your nominated household bubble visit your home but this in some instances has been reduced to two on the same day" Mr Northe concluded.

Regional Victorian remains in Third Step restrictions. From 11:59pm 18 October 2020 some restrictions are easing. The changes to restrictions include:

  • You can have up to two people visit you at home each day. Infants under 12 months are not included in this cap, and other dependents can also attend if they cannot be left unattended or cared for in another setting. The two people may be from different households. This replaces the household bubbles.
  • Libraries and toy libraries can open for up to 20 people indoors. No more than 10 people can gather in a space (for example for a class). The one person per four square metre rule Signage, cleaning and record-keeping requirements apply.
  • Outdoor religious gatherings are allowed for up to 20 people plus one faith leader. This replaces the limit of ten people. This includes ceremonies, with no sharing of food, drink, crockery, utensils, vessels or other equipment by participants.
  • The limits of people in restaurants and cafes increases. You can have up to 70 people outdoors and up to 10 people per indoor space with a maximum of 40 people per venue indoors. The two and four square metre rules Indoor spaces must be separated by permanent structures (should reach floor to ceiling or be at least 2.1 metres high) or be a discrete area of the premises. Businesses must continue to ensure people from metropolitan Melbourne do not eat-in.
  • Indoor swimming pools can open exclusively for those aged 18 and under. There is a limit of 20 customers in the pool or the one person per four square metre rule (whichever is the smaller number of people). One parent/guardian/carer per child is permitted for supervision purposes and not included in the limit. Swimming classes can resume.
  • Indoor pools can open for one-on-one hydrotherapy sessions with a limit of 10 people in the pool at one time.
  • Licensed tourism services that use open-air vehicles only are permitted to operate. A vehicle, inclusive of roofed vehicles, is considered an open-air vehicle if at least two sides are open to airflow at all times.

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