Victoria’s roadmap out of COVID lockdown released by Premier Daniel Andrews
Melbourne will be in lockdown until late October and greater freedoms will be granted to fully vaccinated Victorians once 80 per cent of the eligible population has been double dosed, the state’s roadmap has revealed.
But hospital capacity is expected to be severely stretched and daily cases are projected to soar into the thousands over the coming month, according to the modelling underpinning the plan.
And from 11:59pm Sunday, Geelong, the Surf Coast and the Mitchell Shire re-entered lockdown for seven days, due to increased cases in the regions.
The regional areas joined Metropolitan Melbourne and Greater Ballarat in the lockdown, which includes only six allowed reasons to leave home and restrictions on movement.
Under the roadmap unveiled by Premier Daniel Andrews, once the state reaches 80 per cent single-dose coverage, contactless recreation including golf, tennis and bowls will be permitted.
After that, the state’s restrictions will remain in place until 70 per cent of the 16-plus population has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected on October 26.
By Christmas Day, up to 30 visitors will be allowed to the home, if the 80 per cent full vaccination target is met, under the state’s five-step plan.
Activities and freedoms will only be available to fully vaccinated people and the Andrews government is also moving to make vaccines mandatory for all authorised workers, teachers, childcare workers, parents of childcare workers, hospitality workers and patrons.
Healthcare workers must have had one dose by October 15, with dates for other sectors to come.
“Make no mistake, we are opening this place up. There is no alternative,” Mr Andrews said.
“There is a gateway here, it will be challenging but we must pass through it. We cannot have a perpetual suppression of this virus. No-one is arguing that.
“There will be pain, it will be challenging, it will be very hard on our amazing doctors, nurses and ambos and the whole team in our hospitals. We will support them, we’ll stand with them.”
However, Mr Andrews said the pain was a necessary evil in opening up.
“There is no modelling I have seen and no plan that I have seen that a Victorian will look at and say, that is a plan to open up that does not involve acute stress in our health system. That is the nature of the Delta variant,” he said.
Hospitality and community sport from 70pc target
Once Victoria hits the 70 per cent target, expected around October 26, there will be no limits on travel and outdoor gatherings of 50 people will be allowed.
At that stage, hospitality will be able to open with up to 50 people allowed outdoors. The government will once again support businesses to use street space outside their premises.
Retail will be allowed to open, but for “outdoor service only” so many stores will have to stay closed until the next stage.
Swimming pools and community facilities will be opened in limited numbers for fully vaccinated people.
Services at places of worship and community sport will also be able to resume.
Schools to gradually reopen from October 5
Under the long-anticipated roadmap out of Victoria’s marathon restrictions, schools will gradually reopen from October 5, starting with year 12 students.
Prep students will return three days a week from October 18, and students in years 1 and 2 will return for two days a week.
The following week, students in other years levels will return on a part-time basis. Year 7, 11 and 12 will be able to attend five days a week from October 26.
Childcare will reopen to the general public on October 26 but only for children whose parents are both fully vaccinated.
80pc target projected to be hit in early November
Visitors to the home will remain banned until 80 per cent of the state’s 16-plus population is fully vaccinated, with five people allowed as a first step.
It is expected step 4 — when 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated – will be met on November 5.
But the state is hoping if vaccination rates are boosted, that target could be hit before the Melbourne Cup, which is scheduled for November 2.
Mr Andrews called the 80 per cent mark the “ultimate end point”, at which the entire state will be on the one set of rules.
Interstate travel will be subject to other states’ rules.
But intrastate travel will resume and all retail and all hospitality will reopen with density limits of one person per four square metres.
Hair and beauty businesses will be able to reopen, but only for fully vaccinated staff and customers.
Religious ceremonies will also grow in size once the 80 per cent target is met. There will be room for a limited number of unvaccinated worshippers or mourners, but the vast majority will need to have had two jabs.
Mr Andrews flagged new state laws to enforce the vaccine mandate, rather than relying on individual businesses to enforce the rules.
The specifics of how a vaccine passport would work are still being ironed out by National Cabinet, but Mr Andrews said there would be provisions for people without smartphones.
He said the government and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton would be working to “make a properly legally defendable decision under the act about which groups of people will have to be mandatorily vaccinated”, which would be announced as they happened.
Hospital system could still be overrun with lockdowns, modelling says
The roadmap is underpinned by modelling from the Burnet Institute and in line with the National Cabinet plan, which relies on Doherty Institute modelling.
Even without any easing of restrictions, the Burnet Institute modelling reveals there is a “moderate” risk of exceeding the state’s health capacity.
Based on current growth rate of cases, Victoria is expected to hit a peak of between 1,400 and 2,900 daily cases between October 19 and 31.
The institute warns that once Victoria reopens under this framework, there is a 63 per cent chance hospital demand will exceed 2,500 people, with a peak in mid-October.
It also forecasts a second peak in mid-December once restrictions have been eased.
“On or about the 15 December, cases will peak at about 4,500. Towards the end of December, admissions to hospital will peak at about 3,150, and in January, deaths due to COVID-19 in the Delta variant will peak at around 2,200,” Mr Andrews said.
“These are sobering numbers.
“We are opening up, no doubt about that, and there will be no turning back. We have got to normalise this, we have got to pass through and beyond this pandemic.”
Mr Andrews reiterated it was only modelling and a forecast, not a definitive verdict.
“What I’m saying is, modelling is important, it informs you, but it doesn’t write the plan. You have to update it, you have to take actual numbers and replace your assumptions with actual data. We will do that, we will refine things, we will consistently update this roadmap,” he said.
But under the roadmap, if there was a 15 per cent reduction in non-household transmission through public health measures, including increased testing, the risk of hospital demand exceeding 2,500 could be significantly reduced.
NSW border rules relaxed slightly
From 11:59pm Sunday night, Victoria’s strict border with New South Wales will be slightly relaxed.
Jervis Bay and the 66 local government areas that are not locked down currently will be downgraded from extreme risk to red zones.
It will allow Victorian residents to apply for a permit to return home.
All of NSW is currently classed an extreme risk zone, meaning nobody can enter Victoria except for very limited exemptions.