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Local News - Victoria

Impossible Christmas suddenly possible as restrictions ease


“Each of us playing our part to make sure that we protect public health, that we value and protect this precious thing that we have built … It’s incredibly valuable, but it is fragile. And even though these rules are important changes, this virus is not gone.”

Restrictions could ease further before the end of the year, with the Premier flagging ongoing reviews of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, which also include offices returning to 25 per cent capacity, more patrons in cafes and restaurants, universities and TAFE resuming classes and up to 150 people at weddings and funerals.

It’s definitely really exciting not to have to wear a mask. It feels like you are one step closer to freedom.

Zahra Abbass

Some epidemiologists told The Age the state government should consider bringing more people back to offices and increasing gathering size and venue limits ahead of its next review of restrictions on December 6.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton declared on Sunday he was confident community transmission of coronavirus in the state had now ceased, with no COVID-19 deaths or infections for 23 days.

“That will be an ongoing risk until there is a substantial rollout of vaccines across the world, and that is some months away, at least six months,” Professor Sutton said.

“And we’re not going to get full coverage of vaccinations for all of our international arrivals for an even longer period of time, so we just have to be mindful of these things that we’re going to have in place: distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette. They are our insurance policy for any incursion that may happen into the future.”

Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Victorians for their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Victorians for their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Credit:Chris Hopkins

The reversal of the state’s fortunes follows a second wave of coronavirus that claimed the lives of almost 800 people, infected more than 20,000 and cost the economy billions of dollars after the virus was transmitted into the community by guards working on the state’s hotel quarantine scheme for international travellers.

Quarantine settings were again the subject of intense national debate on Sunday, with one of the federal government’s top infection control advisers joining growing calls for the federal government to consider a system where quarantine facilities are placed away from heavily populated areas.

Earlier on Sunday, South Australia’s Opposition Leader urged the state government to put an end to its “medi-hotel” program after an outbreak that began at a quarantine hotel forced the state into a strict six-day lockdown.

Under the new changes to restrictions announced in Victoria on Sunday, indoor religious gatherings have been capped at 150, while up to 300 people will be allowed at outdoor religious ceremonies. And 150 guests will be permitted at weddings and funerals, with a maximum density of one person per four square metres.

Workers will be allowed to return to their offices in limited numbers, although public servants will continue working from home to reduce the number of people travelling to the city. Patron limits on hospitality venues will be increased and higher education students and staff can return to campus.

Zahra Abbass, 25, has spent a lot of time wearing a mask throughout the pandemic, due to her work as a receptionist. She said it would be a relief to know she could go outside for a walk and take it off.

“It’s definitely really exciting not to have to wear a mask. It feels like you are one step closer to freedom in a way, even though the pandemic is not going to end any time soon. There is that sense of relief that you are one step closer,” she said.

The state’s powerful business lobby group, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the government’s announcements.

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Victoria again and what a fantastic announcement for businesses today, and effectively with the announcements today, every business can get on with doing what they love best,” said chief executive Paul Guerra.

“We look forward to [caps on venues] being scrapped, but for now it’s appropriate. While we’ve done a great job at suppressing this virus, we’re seeing in other states how easily it can come back. So, you know, the limit of 150 is more than what everyone thought we were going to get, so fabulous on the government for bringing that forward.”

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien welcomed the latest easing of restrictions, but said more rules could have been safely rolled back. He queried the government’s “arbitrary” cap on venues and the decision to prevent public servants from returning to the office.

“It’s been such a long road, it’s been a tough winter, it’s been a tough spring,” he said. “Victorians deserve the announcements that were made today.”

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The Islamic Council of Victoria and Anglican Diocese of Melbourne broadly welcomed the changes to religious gatherings and ceremonies, but urged the government to consider scrapping the cap on venues, arguing places of worship were generally big buildings where people wear masks and can social distance.

ICV vice-president Adel Salman said: “We’re happy about the lifting of restrictions, but we see there’s opportunity to improve things. We definitely appreciate that we’re now allowed 150 indoors, and I think that’s great.”

Bishop Paul Barker said: “You can go to a restaurant to eat without a mask, people often talking a bit loudly, droplets going across the tables. In places of worship, we wear masks and we observe social distancing. We still think the government is not treating people with the utmost fairness.”

Some epidemiologists also suggested limits on venues could be reviewed.

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Professor Catherine Bennett said she would like the focus to shift to increasing the number of workers who can return to the office, and she is advocating for the scrapping of venue caps in favour of density limits when the government reviews restrictions on December 6.

“We know with this virus, the cycle is essentially between workplaces and homes … so that’s where most of the spread happens,” Professor Bennett said. “We want to get people back to work. Holding back on further home visits helps contain this idea of potential outbreaks because you’re just breaking some of those cycles where the virus transmits.”

La Trobe University’s Hassan Vally said: “I guess once we have satisfied the epidemiological criteria for elimination of the virus, the next lot of relaxation of restrictions should see us move to what COVID-normal will be until we have the vaccine.

“For example, this would involve moving towards allowing gathering sizes that we are happy balances risks with benefits, and allowing other ‘high-risk’ places like pubs and gyms to operate in a more viable way. I think mask-wearing where social distancing is not able to occur is here to stay for some time.”

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Professor Tony Blakely said the more Victoria reopened its economy and increased social gatherings, “the more we are a tinder box like Western Australia, where if the virus got in, it would just go boom”.

“I doubt we’ll be opening up the MCG – I think 25 per cent is about as much as we’ll get. With restaurants, I suspect the easing – two square metres per person – I think that’s as far as it will go. This is how we’re going to be functioning going forward,” he said.

The Burnet Institute’s Mike Toole said the changes were “sensible”, but he remained “nervous” about increasing the number of visitors allowed in homes to 15, and then 30 from mid-December.

“My principle is gradual, gradual, gradual … I’ve no way of being able to differentiate on the effects 25 per cent of workers returning to the office versus 40 per cent, it’s impossible to model at this stage, but keeping public servants out of the office is a good idea.”

Professor Adrian Esterman, chair of biostatistics at the University of South Australia, said he found it unusual the Premier had decided to relax mask-wearing rules.

“[It] is a bit strange because they are one of the low-hanging fruit that is easy to use and does not cost the economy,” Professor Esterman said.

“They are cheap. I’m not quite sure why they would suggest people don’t wear them at least for another week.”

With Simone Fox Koob

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Queensland’s coronavirus restrictions officially ease today, so what are you allowed to do?


Queensland will wind back more coronavirus-related restrictions from 4:00pm today, just in time for the State of Origin decider, when the state enters stage 5 of its Roadmap to Easing COVID-19 Restrictions.

But Adelaide was declared a hotspot yesterday, meaning a December 1 move to Stage 6 — with borders potentially reopening to all of Australia without the need for hotel quarantine — is in doubt.

Here’s what you need to know about this afternoon’s changes:

Full capacity for ticketed venues

“Let’s fill that cauldron, let’s fill Suncorp [stadium] and cheer our mighty Maroons on,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declared last Friday.

When Queensland hosts New South Wales tomorrow tonight, Lang Park is expected to have a full house of 52,500 spectators, albeit with a COVID-safe plan in place.

It will make the match Australia’s best-attended sports event since coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March.

From 4:00pm, open-air stadiums can go from 75 to 100 per cent capacity with COVID-safe plans.

Other outdoor events will be able to increase to 1,500, from a previous limit of 1,000, if they have a COVID-safe event checklist.

There is also good news for indoor seated and ticketed venues.

Cinemas, live music and theatre, as well as indoor sports, will be allowed to return to full capacity.

Performers will be able to reduce the distance from the audience from 4 metres to 2 metres, except for choirs which will remain at 4 metres from the audience.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young advised patrons to wear masks on entry and exit, while visiting public restrooms at the venue, or when buying food or drinks.

“[Once] you’re sat down in your seat … if you feel more comfortable, take [the mask] off or leave it on,” Dr Young said.

Dr Jeannette Young speaks at a media conference with Annastacia Palaszczuk looking on in the background.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer urges those attending to wear masks in and out of the stadium.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

Pubs and restaurants to ease restrictions

Food and beverage outlets will now be able to accommodate twice as many customers.

One person will be allowed every 2 square metres in pubs and restaurants, easing from one person every 4 square metres.

This also applies to other indoor premises, including places of worship, museums, art galleries, convention centres and even Parliament House.

Indoor play areas within these buildings, like kids’ playgrounds inside restaurants, can open.

200 allowed at weddings and funerals

Having previously come under fire from interstate for Queensland’s unwavering stance on funerals, Ms Palaszczuk observed that mourners “have had to go through a lot recently”.

From this afternoon, up to 200 people will be able to attend funerals.

The same number will be allowed at wedding ceremonies.

And, yes, wedding guests will be allowed to hit the dance floor, both outdoors and indoors.

No dancing at nightclubs

If it’s at an outdoor venue like a music festival or beer garden, dancing will now be allowed.

People dancing
Dancing will be allowed at outdoor venues, but banned at bars, taverns and pubs.(Unsplash CC: Levi Guzman)

But dancing is still off limits at Queensland nightclubs, taverns and pubs.

Venues can be fined $6,670 if they are caught breaching a ban on dancing.

Private gatherings

Until today, there has been a 40-person limit on gatherings in homes and public spaces.

This will be lifted to 50 people and applies across Queensland.

Residential care visits and boarding schools

There is no change to the contact restrictions for residential aged care.

Since November 3, aged-care residents have been allowed up to two visitors at any time.

There is no limit on the number of visits per day or the length of a visit.

People at mental health or drug and alcohol facilities can also be visited.

Boarding school students can sleep over at friends’ houses on weekends and holidays.

What’s next?

Last week, Dr Young told ABC Brisbane she would assess the most recent coronavirus numbers across the country before making recommendations to the Premier about welcoming the rest of Australia to Queensland from December 1.

Ms Palaszczuk had spoken of a “national aspiration” to reopen the borders without restriction by Christmas — but that was before the recent outbreak in South Australia.

Dr Young said yesterday that travellers arriving from Adelaide since Monday of last week will need to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days.

Greater Sydney and Melbourne also remain designated hotspots, according to Queensland Health.

“This is very important while we work out what this [outbreak] means [to Queensland] … it’s a very rapid increase in cases from four to 17,” Dr Young said.



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Local News - Victoria

Experts renew calls for mask rules to ease immediately


That move should not affect the decision on other restrictions as masks should remain compulsory in high-risk settings, he said.

“None of us are saying masks are useless, they’ve proven to be very effective and will continue to be in high-risk environments – the MCG, supermarkets, indoor environments,” he said.

“But it seems a really excessive and risk-averse approach when evidence from other jurisdictions in Australia shows they have not required that extreme measure to control the virus or even get close to elimination.”

Professor Grills, who works part-time in a Melbourne emergency department where he has witnessed mental health presentations boom recently, said the government should consider taking its next step in restrictions before next Sunday.

“One week does make a difference. I see limitations on people’s lives that lead to poorer mental health, disharmony in individuals and families,” Professor Grills said. “There’s a gradual step we could go to safely this week.”

Victoria had just three active cases on Saturday and the latest “double doughnut day” came after 14,614 tests were processed the previous day.

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Professor Cheng added that Victoria was watching developments in New South Wales and New Zealand, which began a travel bubble with Victoria this week, when considering its mask rules.

Melbourne University epidemiologist James McCaw said he agreed that masks would remain crucial indoors for months to come.

But with the NSW-Victoria border opening on November 23, Professor McCaw said the possibility of cases being imported from north of the border was not sufficient to validate extending compulsory masks.

“I broadly agree with Professor Cheng that if we ease restrictions in one place we may have to maintain them in another. But I don’t think the blanket ‘always wear your mask’ should remain,” he said.

“I think Victorians have shown they can handle nuance. We can be at a level where you don’t always have to wear it, but you do have to carry it to put on in a dense environment. Let’s back people to behave in a sensible way.”

The full detail of changes will be announced next Sunday but Mr Andrews has previously said 10 people will be allowed to visit a home at a time and public gatherings will grow to 50 people outdoors.

Weddings and funerals would be allowed with 100 people or 10 in a private residence under the plan, and organised contact sports would resume for all ages with limitations on spectators.

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Coronavirus Australia live updates: Restrictions ease in Victoria


Victorians have seen more than a week of zero coronavirus cases and zero deaths – but the state’s mask mandate will stay in place.

Victorians are required to wear masks outdoors despite the minimal risk of coronavirus transmission outside.

“At this stage I am not announcing any changes to masks,” Premier Dan Andrews told reporters yesterday.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask and there are plenty of countries around the world that wish they had worn masks.”

When questioned why he was keeping the blanket mask rule, the premier said “simple rules are always best”.

Deakin University chair of epidemiology, Catherine Bennett, admitted to the Herald Sun she was “surprised” Victoria hadn’t eased the mask rule.

“I’m surprised that we’ve still got masks for outdoors in areas where you keep your distance from other people,” she said.

“I would be saying to people in restaurants: keep your masks on unless you’re actually eating or drinking. But to not worry about that and to, on the other hand, say you must wear them even when you’re out walking on your own, to me, is confusing messaging.

“I do actually believe we want to keep masks for some time yet — indoors and on public transport.

“The Premier is holding out on this one but I would be very surprised if he didn’t ease masks in another two weeks.”

ANU infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon said “I don’t really see why you have to wear a mask” if you’re doing outdoor activities.





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Coronavirus restrictions to ease in Victoria


Melbourne’s average daily COVID-19 cases have dipped below one as the Victorian Government prepares to reveal the next steps out of lockdown with more restrictions to ease on Sunday.

Victoria has recorded eight consecutive days of zero cases and on Friday Premier Daniel Andrews said “significant announcements” would be made about the easing of restrictions.

“This Sunday we will make really significant announcements about taking significant steps,” he said.

“We will also map out what the rest of November will look like.”

The Premier said he couldn’t predict what he would announce other that what he had previously outlined but believes the government is “on track”.

Almost three weeks ago, Mr Andrews outlined the first steps out of the state’s harsh lockdown while highlighting some of the restrictions that could be eased as part of the second and third steps.

RESTRICTIONS SET TO EASE

If the next step on the road map goes ahead, from 11.59pm Sunday, Melbourne’s “ring of steel” – which has been up since July 9 and separates the city from regional Victoria – will be scrapped.

People will be free to come and go from their homes as often as they please and indoor gyms will reopen for the first time since July.

But there will be a cap on the number of people allowed in, with 10 per class or space and up to 20 for each venue.

The controversial 25km travel restriction will also be dropped.

Capacity in pubs, cafes and restaurants will be increased from 20 to 40 indoors and up to 70 outdoors, and bookings of up to 10 will be allowed.

But venues must adhere to the one person per four-squared-metres rule.

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to groups of 10.

However there’s expected to be no change to the number of people who can enter your household, which is currently two people (and dependants) from the same residential address.

The Andrews Government has remained conservative when it comes to allowing people into your home amid fears it could be a breeding ground for COVID-19.

“We must understand, all of us — the most dangerous environment for the spread of this virus is in your home,” the Premier previously said.

“When you have visitors, you let your guard down, and they go back to their house, they have visitors and all of a sudden there are chains of transmission that spread silently.”

There will be no changes in schools or childcare centres, which are both actively open but any adults who are studying are encouraged to take classes from home.

Victorians must also continue working from home if they can.

It’s likely there will be no changes made to weddings (up to 10 people) but funeral numbers may increase to up to 50 outdoors. The limit on 20 indoors is predicted to stay the same.

There’s been a big push to get kids moving again and from this Sunday children younger than 18 will be allowed to participate in indoor non-contact sports.

Outdoor bootcamps will be given the green light, as long as numbers are restricted to 10 and social distancing is possible.

Indoor pools can host up to 20 people and 50 for outdoor pools.

For religious gatherings, up to 20 people (plus a faith leader) will be allowed indoors, and up to 50 people (plus a faith leader) outdoors.

Despite the government remaining adamant masks will stay, a report in the Herald Sun suggested the state government may loosen rules after the Crisis Council of Cabinet meeting on Saturday.

According to the publication, there has been discussion between health authorities that requirements around masks could be removed when outdoors or alone.

Last week Mr Andrews also highlighted he would have more to say on November 8 about what Christmas may look like for Victorians.

“If we continue to follow the rules, as frustrating as they are, then we will be able to have, not a normal Christmas, we can’t deliver that, but we’ll have COVID-normal Christmas where you can have family around home and celebrate something that looks much, much more like a normal Christmas than we perhaps have imagined at any point this year,” he told reporters.

“But the day for us to paint that more complete picture of the rest of 2020 is indeed the 8th (November 8).”

The easing of restrictions comes as Melbourne welcomes back inbound international flights from New Zealand.

Travellers from across the ditch will be able to fly directly into Melbourne and travel throughout Victoria without undergoing quarantine, as the state moves to join the travel bubble already in place in NSW.

The announcement will come just a few days after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed she would open the border to Victorians on November 23.



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Melbourne lockdown to end as Daniel Andrews announces restriction ease


Long-suffering Victorians have finally got the news they’ve waited so long to hear, after Premier Daniel Andrews announced the state’s reopening from midnight tomorrow.

Mr Andrews announced the news during this afternoon’s delayed press conference, revealing there will be no more restrictions on leaving home from 11.59pm on Tuesday night.

Retail, beauty and personal services and hospitality venues will also reopen and the four reasons to leave home will be removed.

Within moments, grateful Victorians flooded Twitter in celebration, with high-profile and everyday Aussies alike praising the good news.

RELATED: News Victoria has waited for as Melbourne reopens

Many described having “emotional” reactions to the announcement – while others were simply itching to “get on the beers” again.

And plenty of Aussies from other states also weighed in with messages of support and congratulations for Victorians.

During the long-awaited press conference, Mr Andrews thanked Victorians for their hard work and patience during the course of the pandemic.

“Fundamentally, this belongs to every single Victorian, every single Victorian who has followed the rules, stayed the course, worked with me and my team, to bring this second wave to an end,” Mr Andrews said.

“But it is not over. This virus is not going away. It is going to continue to be a feature of our lives, it is going to be a feature of our lives every day until a vaccine turns up.

“These are big steps. We have all given a lot, I’m so proud and impressed and humbled by the contribution that so many Victorian families have made, so many Victorian businesses have made, if this is to mean something we have to take our COVID-19 responsibilities to stay safe, and stay open, to stay safe and stay connected.”

What has been the hardest part of lockdown? Tell us in the comments below.



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Sport returns in regional Victoria as COVID-19 restrictions ease


This weekend, for the first time in months, regional Victorians were allowed to play competitive sport and they could not be happier about it.

Sale Tennis Club head coach, Anthony Zafiris said there was a “buzz” in the air when the Wellington District junior pennant competition got underway on Saturday.

“It’s incredible — a few weeks ago it was touch and go and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get on or not,” he said.

“Thankfully, Dan Andrews allowed us!

“Every single court was taken … and you could just feel the energy and the buzz around here.

A smiling man in a cap and wearing a hoodie standing in front of some tennis courts.
Anthony Zafiris says his junior pennant players are displaying a new level of intensity.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

Mr Zafiris said he was working with his players to set new goals after such a long period of lockdown.

“They are desperate for something to look forward to,” he said.

“Even at training last night there was really high intensity that I haven’t seen for while, they are so keen to get going.”

Mr Zafiris, who moved from Melbourne to Sale 18 months ago, said he could not have imagined how hard it would be to be sidelined from sport for so long.

“A lot of my fellow tennis coaches in Melbourne have barely worked for the last six months, so I really feel for them,” he said.

A young person on one foot, preparing to hit a tennis ball.
Junior champion Sen Goold, 14, trains daily and has ambitions to play college tennis overseas.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

‘Great to be batting and bowling again’

The junior cricketers of Sale’s Collegians Cricket Club took to the pitch this week for the first round of training since coronavirus put a halt to their schedule.

They are preparing for their first round of matches next weekend.

“Under the current restrictions we could play, but we just needed to give clubs time to get organised and get their teams out on the park,” club delegate Jim Sutton said.

Matches will be played under strict rules, including the regular cleaning of cricket balls, hand sanitisation and social distancing.

Mr Sutton said players were happy to oblige.

A young cricketer using hand sanitiser.
Madix Grattan, 14, says he’s happy to follow the rules if that’s what it takes to return to the pitch.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

“They just want to get down here to see their mates,” he said.

“So to actually get out here into the fresh air and knock around with their mates, it’s great for them physically, mentally and socially.”

Mr Sutton’s 13-year-old daughter, Acacia, who is on track for state selection for cricket, said she was relieved to be able to finally play again.

“We missed out on a whole footy season and so cricket has been like the only sport we’ve been able to play this year,” she said.

Cricketer Sam Dean, 14, said it had “been tough” living under restrictions.

A large group of smiling children in bright football uniforms standing on a soggy field on a grey day.
These junior soccer players in Sale did not let rain stop them from getting back on the field.(ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)

“Homeschooling, not being able to play sport, not seeing your mates — you get pretty unfit through quarantine,” he said.

“So it’s great to be batting and bowling again after a long lockdown.”

At Sale United Football Club, parents lined up in drizzling rain to sign their children in for their first “MiniRoos” training session of the season.

“It’s the first solid competition for the year, so especially for the little kids, it’s just so important for them to know that the world is getting back to normal,” coordinator Laurel Irvine said.



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NT to ease coronavirus border restrictions with regional Victoria


People living in regional Victoria could be able to travel to the Northern Territory without undergoing mandatory quarantine from next month.

The NT Government announced on Monday it was set to revoke its coronavirus hot-spot declaration for most of the state from November 2.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said all but four council areas in regional Victoria would be struck from the hot-spot list, as its rolling average for cases falls to 0.3 – or “next to nothing”.

“All the numbers basically amount to this – regional Victoria has crushed the coronavirus,” Mr Gunner said.

“The critical factor for making this decision is regional Victoria’s success in easing their restrictions without spreading the virus.

“They are stepping out of lockdown while still staying safe.”

The four areas to remain on the watch list are Greater Geelong, the Macedon Ranges, Mitchell Shire and East Gippsland Shire, as they have all recorded at least one positive case in the last fortnight.

However, Mr Gunner said those areas could be also be removed as declared hot spots by November 2 if they continue to suppress new cases.

“That’s likely to happen but it’s not something we are confirming today,” he said.

Metropolitan Melbourne will remain a declared hot spot for the foreseeable future despite Mr Gunner remarking it appeared the city was on the “cusp” of crushing its deadly second wave.

He tried to allay any fears from Territorians worried about letting Victorians past the NT’s strict quarantine controls, saying police would still be patrolling borders and airports to vet all arrivals.

But he said his advice for locals wanting to travel interstate remained the same: “Think twice about it, think hard about it. Don’t travel if you don’t need to, and stay safe if you do.”

More to come



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Qld welcomes ACT residents as COVID-19 restrictions ease


Queensland will enjoy a further easing of restrictions from next week, as capacity at outdoor dining venues, stadiums and theme parks doubles.

From 1am on October 1, density restrictions will ease at outdoor bars, cafes and restaurants from one person per 4sqm to one person per 2sqm, which will effectively double capacity.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the good news as the state recorded another day of no new COVID-19 cases.

The easing of restrictions will also mean capacity at outdoor events with a COVIDSafe plan has been doubled, from 500 to 1000.

Stadiums will also increase capacity from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, to coincide with the AFL Finals Series.

“We’re taking Queensland outside,” Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

It comes as the state opens to ACT resident. Effective from 1am on Friday, ACT residents are now able to fly into Queensland without needing to quarantine, with dozens expected to arrive on the seven flights bound for the sunshine state today, in time for school holidays.

Five flights from Canberra will touch down at Brisbane Airport, and a further two at the Gold Coast.

It coincides with newly-eased restrictions for southeast Queensland residents, after the region on Thursday marked 14 days without any community transmission in the community.

As a result, from Friday gathering restrictions have been eased from 10 to 30 in Brisbane Metro North, Metro South, and West Moreton Hospital and Health Services areas.

Restrictions on aged care and hospitals have also eased, with visitors now allowed inside the facilities, and an easing of personal protective equipment requirements for health care workers.

From next Thursday, Queensland’s border restrictions with NSW will ease slightly, allowing quarantine-free travel between Queensland and parts of northern NSW, namely Ballina, Byron Bay, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Glen Innes shires.

It will coincide with the withdrawal of ADF support from Queensland border, which has resulted in a bitter war-of-words to erupt between Deputy Premier Steven Miles, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski told the Today program on Friday they were ready for the changes, as negotiations had been ongoing for a while.

“We know that there’s an extreme weather season coming, so we have to get ready for that,” he said.

“We understand there is a balance there. Of course we wanted them to stay longer because they add so much value.”

Mr Gollschewski said he was “hopeful” police would be able to manage the increased workload.

“It’s really important that everyone continues to do the right thing,” he said.

On Thursday, chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young warned Queenslanders not to become complacent, saying the virus posed an “ongoing risk”.

“If you’re in an environment that you can’t socially distance, you should still be wearing a mask,” she said.

“I think that might have to be a new way of living for the foreseeable future.”



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Steven Miles ‘optimistic’ Qld restrictions will ease


Restrictions on gatherings, aged care homes and hospitals in southeast Queensland will be lifted today, as the state records no new COVID-19 cases.

Thursday marks 14 days since a known case of coronavirus was in the community. New cases since then have been restricted to hotel or home quarantine.

The Brisbane Youth Detention Centre/ Queensland Corrective Services Academy/ Ipswich Hospital cluster first broke out in mid-August, and has since been linked to 55 cases.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles told ABC Radio on Thursday morning he was “really optimistic” restrictions could be lifted “pretty much immediately”.

“We’ve had a really good run of zero days, which has been a really great result, and we’re hoping that continues,” he said.

“If we have no new cases on Thursday that would mean we can ease restrictions in Brisbane metro and West Moreton. We’d be back to having gatherings of 30.

“Most importantly, allowing visitors back into aged care and lifting restrictions on hospitals … They’re the ones I’m really looking forward to us being able to lift.”

Mr Miles said the first few cases linked to the latest cluster had him fearful of widespread community transmission, and thanked Queensland Health and Queenslanders for their work to contain the spread.

“We thought we would see something quite dramatic,” he told ABC radio on Thursday morning.

“But we managed to quarantine (close contacts) and that’s got us to where we are.

“It’s pretty incredible if you look at what happens around the world.

“(But) it’s still out there, and there will be more cases. The question is: can we manage them and keep them in quarantine?”

Mr Miles said he was confident in the rapid response capabilities in Queensland, and that the softening border would be closely monitored for any new cases.

From 1am on Friday, ACT residents will be able to fly into Queensland.

From October 1, 152,000 northern NSW residents will also be allowed into Queensland for “whatever reason”, and Queenslanders will be able to travel to Byron, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Glen Innes shires without needing to quarantine on return.

Mr Miles reiterated his “disappointment” in the Federal Government’s decision to withdraw ADF troops from the Queensland border, saying it would be extra pressure on Queensland Police.

“They can cope, our police are great, but it does mean more work for them,” Mr Miles said.

“It’s disappointing.”



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