Melbourne and regional Victoria will reunite in a matter of days, as residents get a glimpse of life beyond the state’s next COVID-19 vaccination milestones.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced the latest round of roadmap rules will take effect from 6pm on Friday, with the state forecast to reach 80 per cent full vaccination of people 16 and over sometime next weekend.
Statewide travel can resume under the changes, reconnecting Melbourne with the regions for the first time since the city’s 77-day lockdown lifted.
“That means it is a proper Melbourne Cup long weekend, informally, for people to travel, to book holidays and do all sorts of things,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
In addition, masks no longer need to be worn outdoors, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and retail can reopen for fully vaccinated patrons, and capacity limits increase for restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Students from every year level across the state also return to full-time, face-to-face learning on November 1 before the public holiday that Tuesday.
The premier acknowledged school settings would remain “a little bit different” to normal, given those under 12 cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Longer term, Mr Andrews laid out a plan for the state once 90 per cent of people 12 and over are full vaccinated, forecast on or around November 24.
All venue caps and density quotients will be scrapped at that point, along with mandatory indoor masks outside of high-risk or low-vaccinated settings such as hospitals and schools.
Limits on home and outdoor gatherings will also be shelved, paving the way for Christmas to return to normal.
But Mr Andrews warned Victoria’s “vaccinated economy” would remain into 2022, with those who refuse to get the jab excluded from workplaces, venues and major events.
“For the purpose of the economy, for the purposes of living your life, the only rules are going to be: if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not getting in,” he said.
That includes fans wanting to go to the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, where Mr Andrews is hopeful 80,000-plus cricket fans will gather for day one.
At the 90 per cent target, vaccine passport requirements will also be expanded to staff and patrons of non-essential retail traders including bookshops and shoe stores.
Some 73.7 per cent of Victorians 16 and over have now received both doses, and Mr Andrews said the state remains on track to become one of the most vaccinated places in the world.
Meanwhile, Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley plans to write to the federal government about a growing outbreak at a Melbourne hotel housing refugees and asylum seekers.
The Australian Border Force confirmed 20 detainees at the city’s Park Hotel had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday morning.
Seventeen infected detainees are being treated inside the hotel, while one has been taken to hospital.
Mr Foley said state health authorities were “quite concerned” and want to check COVID-19 infection controls inside the facility are up to standard.
“We’re not saying that isn’t the case but we just don’t have the clarity of oversight and we’re seeking some assurances from the Commonwealth,” he said.
A number of supporters gathered at Lincoln Square at the front of the hotel for a peaceful protest on Saturday as detainees quarantined in their rooms above.
Victoria reported 1935 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Sunday, taking the toll from its current outbreak to 223.