A bizarre loophole in the plan to reopen the border with NSW will leave Victorian families divided by a 15km travel limit while tourists arrive from interstate.
Health Minister Martin Foley has hit out at journalists after it was announced fully vaccinated people from New South Wales would be able to travel to Victoria without quarantining for 14 days.
When questioned at Friday’s press conference about a perceived divide between NSW and Victoria, Mr Foley snapped: “I think everyone needs to take a chill pill.”
“We are not aware of the full details of a media release hot off the printer from the NSW government.”
On Friday it was announced fully vaccinated people from NSW would be able to travel to Victoria without quarantining for 14 days if they arrive after October 20.
Despite the border change, regional Victoria will still remain off limits to Melburnians as metro residents will be subject to the 15km travel limit.
But anyone travelling from New South Wales — including Sydney — will just need a negative test result within 72 hours of landing in Victoria.
The change effectively means Victorian families separated by the regional-metro divide will remain apart even after Sydney tourists are welcome in Melbourne.
After entering from NSW, visitors will only need to isolate until they get another negative test result which must be undertaken within 72 hours.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people will still need to isolate for 14 days and present a negative Covid test result on arrival in Victoria.
The changes come into effect from October 20 and travel permits must be obtained through Service Victoria.
It comes as the state recorded 2179 local Covid infections in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of active cases across the state to 21,324.
Six more people died from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths this year to 131.
A woman in her 50s was among six people who died with Covid on Thursday, Mr Foley announced.
Of the six Covid-related deaths recorded, three were men aged in their 80s, who came from Brimbank, Darebin and Boroondara respectively.
Two women who died were in their 80s from Hume and Moreland.
The third woman was in her 50s and from Moonee Valley.
“We take this opportunity to pass on our deepest condolences and best wishes to families, friends and community members of those who are grieving for those that they have lost,” Mr Foley said.
Friday is the second consecutive day case numbers have crashed through the 2000 mark following an Australian record 2297 cases and 11 deaths on Thursday.
Eighty-eight per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over have received one dose of the Covid vaccine and 63 per cent have received two doses
On Thursday, 73,942 Victorians turned out to get tested. Almost 39,000 vaccine doses were administered in state-run centres.
BUS ROUTES CUT AFTER COVID CASES
Several Melbourne bus routes will be scrapped on Saturday after seven Transdev employees tested positive for coronavirus.
In a statement, The Department of Transport said a “number of Transdev drivers are required to isolate to help contain the spread of coronavirus.”
There will be morning cancellations on the 270, 905, 906, 907, and 908 bus routes.
The 903 route will also experience “a significant number of cancellations” in the afternoon peak periods.
Other services – including routes from Sunshine Station to City, Somerville Rd to Highpoint Shopping Centre, and the Sunshine South Loop will also run on reduced timetables.
Anyone catching public transport this weekend has been urged to check the PTV website to see if their service has been affected.
FRESH BLOW FOR RESIDENTS OF MILDURA
Covid restrictions in Mildura will be extended for another seven days – until October 22 – after another 34 cases were announced on Friday.
Health Minister Martin Foley said it was a “complex” situation.
Mr Weinmar said the majority of cases were located around Swan Hill.
“We are keen to make sure that those cases are well supported and we uncover any final remaining cases still to be found with a high number coming in yesterday impacting our view on that outbreak,” he said.
MOST NEW HOSPITAL CASES UNVAXXED
Victoria’s Covid Commander Jereon Weimar said unvaccinated Victorians were 10 times more likely to catch coronavirus than those who had received the jab.
He said 67 per cent of the 2179 cases recorded yesterday involved unvaccinated people.
Of about 700 people in Victorian hospitals, 75 per cent had not been vaccinated.
Of those in intensive care, 87 per cent had not been vaccinated.
“This is why vaccination is our way out of this and this is why it is critically important that we protect ourselves to get fully vaccinated as swiftly and safely as possible,” Mr Weimar said.
WHAT NEW BORDER RULES MEAN FOR YOU
Border rules are changing and it will have a big impact on travelling between Victoria and NSW, but also internationally.
This handy explainer details everything you need to know.
JABS SAVE VIC FROM 2020 DEATH TOLL
While the state has recorded almost double the number of Covid cases this year compared to 2020 there were 85 per cent fewer deaths – proving the power of vaccines.
More than 39,200 Victorians have been infected with the virus in 2021, well above the 20,311 to October 14, 2020.
But this year’s death toll – 125 – is significantly lower than last year’s 816.
Health experts have credited the effectiveness of lifesaving vaccines for keeping both death rates and hospitalisations relatively low.
With 706 people in hospital as of Thursday, Victoria’s hospitalisation rate is less than 5 per cent.
Despite record case numbers, Daniel Andrews confirmed it would not delay the end of Melbourne’s lockdown once the 70 per cent vaccination target was hit.
“We will deliver the roadmap,” the Premier said.
“We have a really important agreement with the Victorian community. You get vaccinated and we open up.”
As of Thursday, 87.6 per cent of the state’s eligible population had received one dose, while 62.6 per cent were fully vaccinated.
It is likely Victoria will hit the 70 per cent milestone late next week, well ahead of October 26 as first forecast.
Mr Andrews said it was possible that restrictions could be eased further than planned given about 90 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over would have received one dose, about the same time as 70 per cent were fully vaccinated.
But he refused to detail what the extra freedoms could be.
“That work is still ongoing. It’s going to be a busy few days,” he said.
At the 70 per cent threshold, Melbourne’s lockdown and 9pm curfew will lift, travel limits expand to 25km and hospitality venues open to 50 patrons outdoors.
Master Builders Victoria confirmed in an email on Thursday night indoor renovations would also be given the green light to restart.
Chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton this week revealed he was “open to” the prospect of an earlier return of home visits, currently banned until 80 per cent of people are fully vaccinated.
“If we think the epidemiology looks okay, we’re absolutely open to that,” he said.
Infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon said allowing controlled numbers to visit one another was no longer a high-risk activity, given the added protection of vaccinations.
“You’re not going to get a superspreading event because there’s not enough people there,” Prof Collignon said.
“This is a matter of putting risks in perspective for the benefit of social and mental wellbeing too. If you overdo strict rules, you have the perverseness of larger gatherings hiding indoors.
“This virus is going to be an issue that we face for another year or so, I think we need to be practical. Nothing is absolutely safe but we have to be relative.”
Of Thursday’s record case numbers, 693 were detected in Melbourne’s north, 650 in the southeast, 633 in the west, 144 in the east and 170 in regional Victoria.
More than 37,600 vaccine doses were administered through the state’s mass hubs on Wednesday.
It comes as a new survey revealed that Australia could eventually boast a vaccination rate of 90 per cent.
The Melbourne Institute Survey found Victoria had the lowest vaccine hesitancy rate nationwide, just 10.1 per cent. Hesitancy in South Australia soared over the past fortnight to 19.2 per cent.
“The largest drop in hesitancy comes from those unwilling to be vaccinated,” the research stated.
Hesitancy among people aged 45-64 has fallen 4 per cent from August, when it was 12 per cent.
POSITIVE CASE AT MARCELLIN COLLEGE
A student at Marcellin College in Bulleen has tested positive for Covid, parents were advised on Thursday.
The student was last on-site on October 7 and tested positive on Monday, October 11.
Although the student was not infectious while onsite, the school has made the decision to close the college to ensure VCE exams can proceed from October 27.
The school is expected to reopen on Monday, October 18.
Staff and students in the meantime are anxiously awaiting Covid test results.
New Education Department guidelines mean VCE students who are close contacts can still sit exams but positive cases will have to get a derived score.
The school is among more than 50 to have on-site exposure, although most are expected to reopen within 24 hours.
RETAIL CHAINS DISMISS OUTDOOR TRADING
Westfield, JB Hi-Fi and Kathmandu are the latest major retailers to wave the white flag to Victoria’s “comical” outdoor trading rules.
The Herald Sun revealed on Thursday that many Melbourne retailers would not reopen when lockdown ends because stores are only permitted to operate outdoors.
Scentre Group, which owns Westfield malls in Australia, has joined rival Vicinity Centres and key retail chains JB Hi-Fi, Kathmandu and Myer in saying outdoor trading was not possible.
Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey said he did not see how outdoor trading could be implemented at the electronics, whitegoods and furniture chain.
“I don’t understand how it would work,” the retail veteran said.
“Everything is very complicated at the moment.”
While Melbourne will win back some freedoms when the state hits 70 per cent double vaccination – restaurants and cafes can offer outdoor dining and hairdressers can open – many fashion and non-essential retailers will remain closed.
They can only open indoors when the state hits 80 per cent double vaccination, in a move the Australian Retailers Association branded “deeply disappointing”.
Small Business Australia chief Bill Lang said: “What we have here with the ‘outdoor retail’ debacle is what occurs when bureaucrats who have never worked in business present ideas to politicians who have never worked or run a business either.”
Questioned about the slow retail reopening, the Premier said the 80 per cent target could be hit 10 days after lockdown ends.
“The key point here is that we’ve had gateways at 70 per cent and 80 per cent,” Mr Andrews said.
IN-HOME RENOVATIONS RESUME EARLY
In-home renovations will be allowed to resume ahead of schedule – once 70 per cent of Victorians are fully vaccinated.
Currently under the Victorian government’s roadmap, the renovation sector was not permitted to work until November 5, when the state was forecasted to hit a vaccination rate of 80 per cent.
For many weeks, the sector has not been permitted to work inside occupied premises and have been severely limited to only one person working outside.
“The reopening of renovations in occupied homes ahead of schedule will provide a much-needed boost to the residential building industry and help many families who have been waiting for their home renovations projects to either commence or resume,” Housing Industry Association Victorian Executive Director Fiona Nield said.
“There are thousands of small building businesses that have been unable to work during the lockdowns, both this year and last year, and this has caused great financial hardship.
“There have also been many families who have been living with partially completed building work in their homes.
“This news will provide welcome relief for all – builders, trades and homeowners.”
Master Builders Victoria CEO Rebecca Casson said she hoped that this advance notice of the reopening of renovations would allow people the time to plan, gear up, and line up trades or redeploy staff.
“We also hope that this means many Victorians will have kitchens and bathrooms finished by Christmas and will be able to celebrate the New Year in comfort,” she said.
Both the bodies have continued to lobby over the weeks and months for the safe return to renovations in occupied homes.
“We have clearly demonstrated that steps can be taken by our members to operate safely to protect both owners and workers,” Ms Nield said.
A maximum of five workers plus a supervisor will be permitted unless additional workers are required for safety reasons.
Returning workers must have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and have their second jab before November 15.
TRAINEES PLATE UP FOR CHANCE OF JOB
The hospitality industry says a shortage of workers threatens the sector’s post-lockdown recovery as the state’s biggest players roll out a new training blitz.
Crown Resorts is offering to pay 1000 budding hospitality workers to undertake a specially designed training course.
It comes as new unemployment figures reveal nine out of 10 jobs lost across the nation during September were in Victoria.
Prompted by the state’s sixth lockdown, the jobless rate soared 0.7 points to 4.8 per cent. The national figure rose 0.1 points to 4.6 per cent, an increase of 138,000.
But federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – who has called for Victoria to ease restrictions in line with NSW – warns that lockdowns have had an even greater impact on the labour market than the headline figures show.
“Hours worked fell and there are now 173,000 people in Victoria who have been stood down on zero hours,” he said.
Casino and tourism giant Crown will work with the Australian Hotels Association and Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to place graduates in jobs across the industry.
Crown food and beverage general manager Enda Cunningham said Covid lockdowns had forced workers to leave the industry and dried up the pool of international students who often filled roles.
“The skills shortage is arguably the biggest concern across the industry at the moment,” he said.
Participants will receive an entry-level wage during the week-long intensive-training course.