By Luke Voogt
Geelong’s COVID-19 restrictions could ease significantly next week, Premier Daniel Andrews has foreshadowed.
The average new daily cases over the past fortnight in regional Victoria dropped to 4.5 as of 11.59pm on Wednesday.
The figures achieve the first of two trigger points – five or fewer new cases daily– for a move to the third step of state government’s reopening roadmap for regional Victoria.
The third step allows regional Victorian residents to have five visitors to their house, leave home without restrictions and gather outside in groups of up to 10.
The step also allows restaurants and other hospitality venues to reopen, predominantly with an outdoor seated service.
“If the trend continues, and the numbers are very promising, we’ll be able to take a step, or steps, as early as toward the end of next week,” Premier Andrews told a press conference yesterday.
Mr Andrews on Sunday warned Geelong could face a different set of restrictions to the rest of regional Victoria.
But yesterday he indicated, based on the latest figures, that the government would not have to “divide the state up into regions”.
The prediction comes as Geelong business leaders this week urged Mr Andrews to fast-track the third step following the introduction of a second step of minor changes this Sunday.
“If the numbers allow, please implement the third step as soon as possible,” Geelong chamber of Commerce chief executive Ben Flynn said.
“It would be an extraordinary relief for businesses across Geelong. Business owners are under an immense amount of stress.
“It would mean that businesses could start to open with more certainty and that people would have a renewed sense of hope.”
But many businesses would still be operating well below usual levels under the third step, Mr Flynn said.
He said the chamber would work closely with Geelong council to maximise opportunities for outdoor dining.
“Traffic’s quite low at the moment anyway so, yes, if it’s safe to do so, let’s think outside the box.”
Greater Geelong recorded no new cases on Wednesday and active cases dropped by four to 11, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The second trigger point for the third step is no cases with unknown transmission in regional Victoria for 14 days.
Regional Victoria currently has eight cases with an unknown source over the past fortnight to Tuesday.*
*The 14-day period for unknown cases ends 48 hours earlier than the 14-day period used to calculate the new case average due to the time required to fully investigate a case and assign its mode of acquisition.