Explained: What businesses need to know about Melbourne’s reopening roadmap

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Source: AAP/James Ross.

Retail and hospitality businesses in metropolitan Melbourne will remain subject to strict COVID-19 restrictions for at least another seven weeks under Victoria’s reopening roadmap.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday stressed the need for a “steady and safe” transition from stage four COVID-19 restrictions, unveiling a plan for reopening Melbourne that will extend the toughest measures until at least September 28.

“If we go too far too soon, the modelling also tells us we’d be on track for a third wave by mid-November,” Andrews said in a statement.

“That’d mean we’re back to where we are now, maybe even worse. Days, weeks, months of sacrifice, gone.”

Businesses in regional Victoria will open up slightly faster under the government’s plan, which is set out over the next four months, classifying industry restrictions into four stages, from “heavily restricted” to “open with a COVIDSafe plan”.

Existing stage four rules in Melbourne will persist for at least two more weeks, until Victoria records an average daily case rate between 30-50 over two weeks, at which time about 101,000 workers in the construction, manufacturing, postal distribution and wholesale trade and warehousing industries will be allowed to return to work.

Current restrictions on retail and hospitality businesses will remain until at least October 26, or until Victoria records an average of fewer than five new cases over two weeks, with fewer than five unknown cases over that time.

This case threshold will trigger a “third step”, which will allow hospitality businesses to open for outdoor seating services, while retailers forced to close under stage four will be allowed to re-open, including hairdressers, although other beauty and personal care businesses will remain closed.

Gyms, fitness centres and studios will be allowed to open under this third step, subject to “heavy restrictions”.

Offices will also be allowed to open under the third step, while more industries will move from “heavily restricted” to “restricted”, allowing the rolling back of workforce restrictions that require businesses to constrain their staff capacities.

It will not be until at least November 23, once Victoria records no new coronavirus cases for 14 days, that hospitality businesses in metropolitan Melbourne will be allowed to host diners indoors and all other retail businesses will be allowed to reopen.

Lastly, Victoria will move to “COVID Normal” restrictions once the state has no active cases, there are no “outbreaks of concern” in other states, and no new cases are recorded for 28 days. This step will allow all businesses to open with COVIDSafe plans.

Andrews said the reopening roadmap struck a balance between public health needs and economic concerns, and that the government would work with industry bodies, particularly the hospitality industry, to address concerns in the coming weeks.

This could include further financial support, or exemptions for those restaurants and cafes that cannot make outdoor dining work under the “third step”, with the possibility that Melbourne city car parks may be able to be repurposed for businesses.

“I think the hospitality industry will look different,” Andrews said.

Guidance for businesses in regional Victoria is outlined in this separate article.

What the re-opening roadmap means for you

Under the re-opening roadmap there are four industry classifications:

  • “Closed”, where no one can be at the workplace except for emergencies;
  • “Heavily restricted”, which includes workforce reductions and staff working from home where possible;
  • “Restricted”, which allows some easing of workforce reductions (industry by industry); and
  • “Open with a COVIDSafe plan”, where businesses can open as usual with coronavirus plans.

These classifications carry varying rules, from requirements to reduce workforce capacities to rules forcing businesses to conduct operations outside.

Each industry will be subject to different rules under each stage, a full break down of which is available online here.

Businesses in different industries will move between the above classifications against a timeline based on case thresholds.

Each step triggers the next, as follows.

  • A “first step” from September 13 to at least September 28, until Victoria records an average daily case rate between 30-50 over two weeks.
  • A “second step” running to at least October 26, until Victoria records an average of fewer than five new cases over two weeks, with fewer than five unknown cases over that time.
  • A “third step” running to at least November 23, until Victoria records no new cases for 14 days.
  • A “last step” that will last until the state has no active cases, there no “outbreaks of concern” in other states, and there have been no new cases for 28-days.
  • And lastly, a “COVID Normal”.

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