Melbourne businesses in certain industries will find out tomorrow if they will close this week, as the Victorian capital city enters stage four restrictions in a bid to contain growing numbers of coronavirus cases.
Regional businesses will also face new restrictions from Wednesday, after Victoria recorded 671 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
There are now 11,557 coronavirus cases in Victoria and another seven people have died, while Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday the state has 760 ‘mystery’ cases, where the origin of the case is not known.
Speaking during a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Andrews said from 6pm tonight, Victoria will more to a state of disaster, and new restrictions will limit Melbourne residents to staying within five kilometres of their home.
The current ‘stay-at-home’ rules in Melbourne will be enhanced under these stage four restrictions, said the Premier, and this means only one person per household will be able to go shopping for essentials once a day, and within a 5km area.
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At the same time, a curfew will also be imposed in Melbourne from 8pm tonight. The curfew means that during the hours of 8pm and 5am individuals will only be able to leave their homes for the purposes of giving or receiving care, or going to and from work.
“We have to do more, and we have to do more now,” said the Premier, who added in a separate statement that the new rules will be place for at least six weeks, until Sunday, September 13.
Recreational exercise will also no longer be allowed, with individuals restricted to one hour of exercise per day, within their local area.
In regional Victoria, stage three restrictions will come into effect at 11.59pm on Wednesday, which means residents in regional cities and towns will only have four reasons to leave home: shopping for food and supplies; medical care and caregiving; exercise and recreation; and study and work, if it cannot be done from home.
Under stage three restrictions, regional businesses that offer beauty and personal care services will need to close, as will cultural and entertainment venues and community facilities. Cafes and restaurants can provide take-away and delivery services only.
As of midnight Sunday, all Victorians will need to wear a face mask or covering when outside of the home. Those not wearing a mask without a lawful excuse risk being fined $200.
Meanwhile, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also urged residents of her state to wear face masks, particularly when they are in enclosed spaces and cannot guarantee social distancing will take place; working on customer-facing roles, such as in retail stores or hospitality venues; attending places of worship; and in areas where there are high rates of community transmissions.
Further business restrictions to come
Premier Andrews said he will announce a series of stage four restrictions to apply to businesses in metropolitan Melbourne on Monday, which will come into effect on Wednesday, at the earliest.
Businesses will be classified into three groups, with supermarkets and food and beverage businesses to be included in the ‘business as usual’ group. There will be no changes to trading conditions for these businesses and the Premier reassured Victorians there will be “no need to be queuing up at Coles and Woolworths, or your local baker and butcher”.
Supermarket opening hours will be determined by the businesses, however, Andrews emphasised there is “no reason to be out after 8pm shopping”.
Businesses offering takeaway and home delivery meals will also continue to operate “as they are now”, said Andrews.
A second category of businesses, which will be detailed tomorrow, will be able to continue to operate, but with “reduced total output” and fewer workers doing fewer shifts.
A third category of businesses will close, and work will need to be done exclusively from home, said the Premier. “If they can’t work from home, it won’t be done,” he said.
Andrews said there are a number of “supply chain issues being worked through” ahead of the announcement of which businesses will close, but flagged the rules will apply to a “whole series of large workplaces”.
However, the Premier clarified that restrictions on businesses “won’t be instantaneous” and businesses will have “time to adjust”.
“We will give people plenty of time, plenty of notice,” he said.
Further business support to come
Premier Andrews said he will also have “more to say” about support for businesses in coming days, and indicated he has spoken with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the potential need for income support for individuals facing hardship and “cashflow support” for affected businesses.
The state government previously announced a $534 million support package for businesses affected by the state’s COVID-19 trading restrictions.
The package includes one-off payments of $5000 for businesses in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, as well as dedicated funds to support hospitality and CBD-based businesses.
Speaking on Friday, Andrews revealed $63 million has been paid to businesses so far under the government’s $5000 grant scheme.
So far, 12,600 businesses have received $5,000 payments under the program, and Andrews said officials are “making good progress” in processing the payments.
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