Victoria eases COVID-19 restrictions, returning to pre-Christmas plan

Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, returning to the state’s COVID-19 Summer Plan from pre-Christmas days.

It has been a tough few weeks for the state, but Victoria has finally returned to pre-Christmas COVID-19 rules, following the easing of restrictions at midnight last night, Friday 26th. Premier Daniel Andrews announced the restrictions would be eased in a press conference earlier on Friday, which comes two weeks after the state’s third lockdown from the Holiday Inn cluster.

From 11:59 on Friday 26th of February, the wearing of face masks is no longer required – except in high-risk indoor environments such as aged care facilities, supermarkets, and on public transport. 75% of workers in the private and public sector can now return to work offices and gatherings of up to 30 people in homes are now allowed, as well as up to 100 in outdoor settings.

Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Large crowds are now permitted for sporting events – just in time for the AFL to announce that the Marvel Stadium and the MCG will hold spectators at 50% capacity.

On Friday the state recorded just two locally acquired cases that were already isolating. These cases are linked to existing infections and authorities are confident that these cases pose no threat to the public.

Andrews stated in his press conference that the easing of restrictions, particularly getting more workers back into the office, is essential for the economy.

“That is very important, in terms of retail trade, hospitality, food and beverage – that whole part of the economy. The expanded capacity will help drive foot traffic back to Melbourne’s CBD and in regional areas.”

Before the announcement, the state had recorded six days without a locally acquired COVID-19 case. Victoria’s COVID-safe summer rules were announced back in early December of 2020. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that these plans allowed Victoria to return to a state of normality as much as possible in the absence of a COVID vaccine.

The vaccine has begun to roll out in the state of Victoria, with hundreds lining up to get the jab. ABC has reported that around 12,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were expected to be delivered by the state this week. Victorian Government Minister Jacinta Allan urged Victorians to trust the vaccination process, despite hundreds of vaccines being thrown away due to a storage error.

A spokesman from the Department of Health confirmed this mixup, acknowledging that 25 Pfizer vials, which contained up to 150 doses, had been thrown out at an aged care facility. “While refrigeration was maintained it was not possible to verify that temperature was maintained throughout,” confirmed the spokesman.

The Holiday Inn outbreak caused Victoria’s snap two-week lockdown, due to fears the virus had spread into the community. Premier Andrews’ decision, which was seen as an overreaction by some, meant that thousands of close contacts were forced into quarantine following the outbreak.

The premier thanked the community for doing their part and staying home over the last few weeks.

“We thank them and we acknowledge the fact that whilst we have pretty well got back to normal in these last couple of weeks, they have been doing the work for all of us, not only to keep their own families safe but the keep every single family safe.”