Victorians rejoice as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, restarting gyms, live music and tourism

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Regional Victorians will see a return of live music and be able to hit the gym once again as a further easing of restrictions comes into effect at 11:59pm on Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews has said.

The Premier’s announcement comes as only two active cases remain in regional Victoria, both in Shepparton.

He also said that, from Monday, restrictions in Greater Shepparton would realign with the rest of regional Victoria after the outbreak there was controlled quickly.

Among those celebrating the changes are gym owners and users across the regions, who’ve been prevented from working out at venues for about six months.

North-east Victorian personal trainer Jack Grigg said the news had been a long time coming.

“Every Sunday when there’s an announcement, we’re waiting and watching, so today was good to finally find out we can open on Wednesday,” he said.

“We’re moving in the right direction, it’s really exciting.”

Mr Grigg said it had not only been tough on the industry, but a lot of his clients had been feeling the impacts while in lockdown.

“It’s been massive, particularly for mental health reasons for our members and their wellbeing,” he said.

Only 20 people would be allowed in the gym at one time, which Mr Grigg said would bring some challenges.

“Twenty people is going to be a bit hard. With the case numbers around here it is difficult to see that we still have to suffer,” he said.

Meanwhile, the music industry is preparing for the return of outdoor performances, which Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan said was a small but important step.

“Obviously, the infection rates are a lot lower outside than inside, but I’d hope that inside shows can be really closely followed, because apart from anything else a lot of the amplifiers in these venues aren’t set up for outdoor performances,” he said.

Mr Donovan said indoors was largely where live music should be performed, but the opening of the industry in regional areas would be a test run for when it could fully open again.

“The sooner that live music can resume in the regions and we can stage some successful gatherings, the sooner we’ll be able to open up in Melbourne and learn from the regional experience,” he said.

“But this is a great opportunity for regional artists to perform shows and have the spotlight on them for once.”

Melbourne Cup weekend looms

Regional Victoria’s tourism industry received some small concessions, with operators now allowed to bus a limited number of customers to attractions.

Such a move will help niche markets, like helicopter flight operators that transport customers to hard-to-reach areas.

Felicia Mariani, chief executive of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, said the majority of tourism operators were still waiting for answers.

“The most critical thing for us was understanding the timings about travel restrictions being lifted and allowing Melburnians to travel into regional Victoria,” Ms Mariani said.

“We’re coming up on what will be another long weekend on Melbourne Cup weekend.

“I know that (regional Victorian) operators are desperate for answers.”

Regional operators have faced two major rounds of refunds, with cancelled bookings over the AFL Grand Final weekend understood to have amounted to millions in lost revenue.

Melbourne tourists ‘need to know’

Ms Mariani said the Government needed to give tourism operators as much advance notice as possible ahead of the upcoming Melbourne Cup long weekend.

“If they have to start refunding, it would be a tragedy, frankly,” Ms Mariani said.

“We’ve had to refund twice because of the situation, and this would be third that would hit some of these operators.”

She said the likes of BIG4 Holiday Parks were sitting on $1 million of bookings for the Melbourne Cup weekend.

“The lion’s share of those bookings are from people in metropolitan Melbourne,” she said.

“People need to know what to do. They haven’t cancelled those bookings, individual customers haven’t requested refunds.

“We need some clarity as to whether these bookings can be honoured. The industry needs to know if they have to be cancelled.

“Operators are desperate to have some surety as to what they can do.”

Graduation ceremonies to go ahead

Bendigo Senior Secondary College is the largest provider of the VCE and VCAL in the state, with its more than 1,700 students.

Its principal Dale Pearce said schools across Victoria had been working towards broadcasting graduation ceremonies and it was good to see the State Government had listened and given schools certainty.

“It’s certainly achievable to be recording or streaming, and that’s what we’ve been planning and working towards in our case, anyway,” he said.

“And we expect that a lot of schools have been planning something similar and hoping that this type of advice would come through.

“I’m sure it will be welcomed, and that schools will be able to get ahead with their planning.”

The school will hold its graduation and awards night in two weeks’ time and has enlisted a film production company to record the ceremonies over two days and stream it to families.

It has also worked with the Education Department and City of Greater Bendigo to make sure ceremonies are COVID-safe and sign off on a plan.

“It will be a really different but a really memorable event. It’s probably the best we can do in this situation,” Mr Pearce said.

By Mikaela Ortolan, Daniel Miles and Tyrone Dalton (Original ABC Article)