Australia

Victoria reports 567 local COVID-19 cases as businesses criticise state’s plan to reopen

The numbers come a day after Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled the state’s roadmap out of lockdown, which has been described by business groups as a “roadblock” and too conservative when compared to that in New South Wales.

The roadmap details some small changes to Melbourne’s restrictions when 80 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received a single vaccine dose, including an increase of the 10 kilometre travel limit to 15km.

But lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians are double vaccinated, which is forecast for 26 October.

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At that stage, the city’s curfew will be lifted, the travel limit will increase to 25km and hospitality can open outdoors with a limit of 50 fully vaccinated people.

Fully vaccinated people will also be able to get a haircut and gather outdoors in groups of 10.

Once Victoria reaches its 80 per cent double-dose target, forecast for 5 November, the travel limit is scrapped altogether, retail, gyms and beauty services can reopen for the fully vaccinated and hospitality can resume indoors.

Home gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed, while at Christmas the figure is expected to increase to 30.

The reopening of schools will not be tied to vaccination coverage, with Year 12 students going back to class on 6 October and a staggered return of other years starting with Prep to Grade 2s on 18 October.

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Mr Andrews said the plan was “cautious” and would prevent the state’s hospital system from being overrun.

But the opposition and business groups have described it as conservative, given Sydney is on track to enjoy far more freedoms about a fortnight earlier than Melbourne, despite having recorded more COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

“Victorian businesses wanted a pathway to prosperity, but instead we got a roadmap with roadblocks,” Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said in a statement.

“It is extremely tough to look over the border and see our NSW neighbours get back to relatively normal life while we continue to be locked down in a holding pattern.”

The Australian Hotels Association Victorian president David Canny said he was “gutted” and called for consistency between states.

The Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said the road map was “disappointing” and would cost the industry $6 billion.

Greater Geelong, the Surf Coast and Mitchell Shire have went into a seven-day lockdown from 11.59pm on Sunday, meaning the regions will be under the same restrictions as Melbourne and Ballarat.



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