Victorians are rejoicing to have ended their third lockdown, re-emerging from the toughest of their restrictions at the stroke of midnight.
There was relief yesterday when Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the “short, sharp circuit-breaker” lockdown would end after five days as planned.
Some bars planned to open as soon as the clock struck 11.59pm on Wednesday, while tennis fans prepared to flock back to Melbourne Park from later today for the final days of the Australian Open.
Despite the breakthrough after an outbreak of the UK strain of COVID-19 last week, some restrictions will remain in place and cross-border travel is still limited.
Here’s what Victorians need to know about the changes:
There will also be no travel distance limit in place for people headed out to exercise or hit the store.
However, when out of doors, Victorians will need to carry a mask.
Masks are mandatory indoors, and outdoors when social distancing is impossible – such as at shopping centres, on transport, or in crowds.
A temporary limit on houseguests is also in place until Friday next week, with a maximum of five visitors allowed. Out of doors, 20 people can gather in public.
Schools, universities and TAFE centres will all be allowed to open from tomorrow, though it will be up to individual institutions to determine how they approach the final days of the week.
Offices will also be open, though high-density workplaces will still be limited by the 50 percent cap.
Funerals and weddings do not have a specific cap, but crowd numbers will be limited by the venue density limit.
Crowds will return to the Australian Open from tomorrow, with a 50 per cent capacity limit enforced for the final four days of the tournament.
Tennis Australia and health authorities agreed to allow masked punters to return to Melbourne Park after it was announced a five-day lockdown would be lifted at midnight tonight.
“The crowd will be capped at 7477 for each session, which is approximately 50 per cent capacity,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.
Thursday morning’s clash between Naomi Osaki and Serena Williams will be played in front of a socially distanced crowd, the first at the Open in five days.
Businesses celebrate amid warnings
Vince Diaco, owner of Rebel Blue Greek restaurant in Windsor, said he was overjoyed to be able to open again, but insisted damaging lockdowns could not keep happening.
“We are very excited to be back to normal after what was a very rapid and disappointing decision to lock us down for the third time,” he said.
“Businesses have been struggling for over a year now and yes we understand the strain of the situation but this cannot keep happening and needs to be managed in a more strategic way.”
Mr Diaco said people dining at restaurants and cafes would make “the world of difference” to small businesses.
Borders begin to come down
South Australia also dropped its border restrictions with regional Victoria as of midnight tonight.
“We will be keeping the greater metropolitan restrictions in place and they will remain until the 14 days since the community exposure is eclipsed and that will be the 25th, next Thursday,” Premier Steven Marshall said.
Other states will keep their existing restrictions on Victorian entry in place for now.
Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said he would have “more to say” about support for businesses soon.
“We’ll make announcements when we’re in a position to do that,” he said.
“We’ll make sure we get payments and other supports out there as fast as we possibly can.”
The reopening of the hospitality sector comes as the City of Melbourne announced it would extend its outdoor dining program until mid-2021 to support businesses.