Virus updates

Skipping COVID roadmap step a possibility, says premier

By James Bennett

Regional Victorians could skip a step in the COVID roadmap if active case remain low.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said it would mean patrons could return to sit-down meals rather than the current takeaway and delivery options.

 “We'll get as many people inside, and as many people at the venue, whether that be inside or outside ... as fast as we possibly can,” Mr Andrews said.

“And I think that you'll see more people inside in regional Victoria quicker than you will in metro Melbourne.”

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell said he welcomed the Premier's statement.

He said while most of Greater Shepparton industry had continued to operate during the coronavirus pandemic, hospitality had suffered greatly.

“We need that opportunity to return safely back to restaurants, cafés and pubs,” Mr Birrell said.

“It will bring staff back to work, get the businesses trading again and hopefully start making back the losses they have incurred.

“It will also be good for the community that they get a sense of relief.”

Mr Andrews said the government was taking on a "robust modelling" task that would allow for the fast track.

He said the second and third step could be achieved "close together, if not on the same day".

Mr Andrews said a positive outcome would be down to a combination of business owners, vigilant customers, contact tracing and more people getting tested.

Regional areas are to have some restrictions eased at 11.59 pm on September 13, before requiring a 14-day period with a rolling average of less than five cases and no unknown sources in order to move to the next step.

Tests in recent days showed regional areas — including major hotspots such as Geelong and Bendigo — were already beginning to meet the targets.

Mr Andrews said if this continued, the government would be open to skipping a step on the roadmap.

“The current rolling average is five,” he said.

“Which means if we continue these sorts of case numbers, then we will get under five and the 14th day will be upon us, and we'll be able to make some significant announcements.”