Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has released the handbrake on his jurisdiction’s economy, announcing that many of the state’s businesses will be allowed to reopen – albeit with strict COVID-safe regulations – from 11.59 pm this evening.
The retail sector, including market stalls and auction houses can open their doors. Cafes, bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve up to 10 people per indoor space with one person per four square metres – up to a total of 20 people indoors – and up to 50 patrons outside with one person per two square metres. Indoor food courts will be allowed to accommodate two people per table with a density quotient of one person per eight square metres, while outdoor food courts will be subject to the same rules as those for outdoor areas of hospitality venues.
Hairdressing and beauty salons will be allowed to open, but to only offer services that can be provided with both worker and client wearing a face mask – so, for example, manicures, pedicures, body waxing, and tattooing are permissible but beard trims are still outlawed. Real estate inspections will be allowed in accordance with record-keeping requirements and density quotients, up to a maximum of 10 people from two households excluding the real estate agent; auctions must be conducted outdoors and will be restricted to 10 members of the public, plus the minimum number of people required to conduct the auction and the owners of the property.
The manufacturing and construction sectors will no longer be subject to a limit on the number of workers, although strict COVID-safe regulations will continue to apply.
In all cases, a “dark opening” applies with effect from yesterday’s announcement, meaning employees can return to work in advance of the 11.59 pm deadline to engage in “reasonable activity in line with preparing for the opening of their businesses”.
Melburnians will still be restricted to travelling no further than 25 km from their home unless they have a permit to do so until midnight on 8 November, and the “ring of steel” cutting the city off from the rest of the state will also remain in place until that date.
The move has been greeted with widespread relief by the business community, alongside some frustration at the amount of time it has taken to get to this stage and at the fact that Melbourne and regional Victoria will not be “reunited” for another fortnight.
Jennifer Westacott – chief executive of the Business Council of Australia – described the reopening as “an important and much-needed step in the right direction” but urged the Victorian Government to work with business to ensure the state can fully reopen.
“It’s disappointing that many businesses will need to wait until 8 November before they have any certainty about reopening,” Westacott said. “Businesses need a plan now so they have the confidence to restock their shelves, rehire workers and get ready to reopen their doors.
“This needs to be a clear plan with clear dates and milestones and be subject to meeting health targets. We cannot afford to have a stop-and-start approach to restrictions.”