Regions re-open in limited capacity

By Simon Ruppert

Regional Victoria will move to Step Three of the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 roadmap from 11.59 pm tomorrow, Wednesday, September 16 - but freedom is still not on the agenda until the end of November.

On Tuesday Premier Daniel Andrews announced changes that will end any restrictions on leaving home, and will allow:

● Public gatherings of up to 10 people;

● Households to have visitors - provided they come from one other household;

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● Hospitality to reopen, but mostly for outdoor seated service and take-away;

● Pubs, restaurants and cafes to have 20 patrons inside, across two areas;

● Retail business to reopen - which includes hairdressers but not personal care;

● Gyms to open in a limited capacity - but only for outdoor activity with limited numbers;

● Unlimited travel within the Step Three zone;

● Up to 10 guests to attend weddings;

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● Up to 20 mourners at a funeral;

● Real estate agents to hold open inspections; and

● Under-18 non-contact and sports to resume - over 18s can only participate in non-contact sport.

“It is a massive thing. It is a very positive thing,” Mr Andrews said.

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"It is something we should all be very pleased and proud of the job that regional Victorians have done.”

The announcement came hot on the heels of Sunday's in which the Premier introduced measures to support regional business.

That announcement included a $3 billion business support package, which includes grants of up to $30,000 for businesses affected by COVID-19.

However, some Benalla businesses will miss out.

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Samantha Robertson, who runs several businesses from her Benalla home, was devastated to discover she could not apply.

“It was announced yesterday that Victorian sole traders, that are not in a commercial lease contract, will get no support,” she said.

“There are 440,000 sole traders in Victoria and (the package is) only helping 33,000 because... the others are supported by job keeper, which is set to drop soon, and hardly covers living cost never mind expenses.

“Apparently we don’t matter.”

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Benalla Rural City Mayor Danny Claridge said he was pleased regional Victoria would be able to open sooner rather than later.

“The council is very much looking forward to the reopening of regional Victoria as soon as it is safe and possible and in a way that maintains our safety,” Cr Claridge said.

“We know that individuals, families and businesses are suffering and are finding these times difficult - made even more so since there have been no active cases in Benalla throughout this second wave.

“I congratulate everyone in Benalla for the job they have done in complying with the regulations and for staying the distance.

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“This is hard and we are optimistic that, as the Victorian Government has said, once the numbers demonstrate ongoing low levels, we can open back up.

“Let’s hope we’ve put these stage three times behind us and as a community, we can return to our more open and social lifestyle.”

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