Victoria, the state at the centre of Australia’s second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, will move out of its strict lockdown and into its next phase of reopening from Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced.
“I am very pleased to announce that from 11:59 pm on Tuesday October 27, all retail will open. Restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars will reopen as well,” a clearly emotional Andrews told reporters on Monday.
It is the first time businesses in the state capital Melbourne have been able to open and welcome in customers since the state was forced into lockdown on August 2.
Initially venues will be able to re-open with 50 people outdoors and 20 people indoors. There will be no restrictions on reasons for Melbourne’s 4.9 million residents to leave their homes, but a 25-kilometre travel limit will remain in place until November 8.
More details will be revealed on Tuesday regarding new freedoms to visit family and friends in their homes.
“We will have rules tomorrow that will allow people to reconnect with those they have missed the most,” Andrews said.
The announcement comes as the state on Monday recorded no new coronavirus infections for the first time since June 9. It also reported zero deaths overnight.
When asked whether he would be celebrating with beers, Andrews said “I don’t know I will be drinking a beer tonight – I might go a little higher on the shelf.”
“This has been a very difficult year, and Victorians have given a lot and I’m proud of every single one of them,” he added.
He also praised the state’s contract tracers and the public health response in controlling new outbreaks.
The Victorian premier had come under harsh criticism from the federal government for prolonging what had been one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.
The lockdown was imposed when the state’s daily coronavirus cases were topping 700.
It had initially included a 5-kilometre travel limit and a night-time curfew that was lifted in late September after eight weeks.
Australia has so far recorded just over 27,500 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic – significantly fewer than most developed countries.
The national death toll stands at 905, with 817 from Victoria.