Victoria's State of Emergency and State of Disaster extended again

Victoria’s State of Emergency and State of Disaster have been extended for another four weeks as Premier Daniel Andrews announces a further $3billion in grants to support businesses which have been crippled by his lockdown.

The embattled state recorded a further 41 COVID-19 cases on Sunday and seven new fatalities, taking the death toll to 723 for the length of the pandemic.

In spite of the clear trend downwards, Mr Andrews has refused to let up on the draconian measures, which include a nightly curfew and strict gathering restrictions.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said the extension of the State of Emergency, which will now last until at least October 11, was crucial for the implementation of necessary COVID-safe guidelines.

‘The State of Emergency ensures we have all the tools we need to fight this virus – keeping all of us safe,’ she said.

Meanwhile Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

‘Extending a State of Disaster is never a decision we make lightly – and it won’t be in place a moment longer than it needs to be,’ she said on Sunday.

‘We are at a critical point right now. And we have to do everything we can to hold onto the gains we’ve made, which means giving Victoria Police everything they need to enforce the Chief Health Officer’s directions as we keep driving down cases.’ 

The financial rescue package will inject up to $1.1billion into small and medium sized businesses that are most affected by coronavirus restrictions. 

A further $251million will be dedicated solely to support bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs and hotels which have been decimated during the two lockdowns.

The Licenced Venue Fund will provide grants of up to $30,000 to venues, while the government has also waived liquor license fees for 2021. 

‘For our state to recover, we need our businesses to recover too. As we take our first safe and steady steps towards COVID Normal, this support will help make sure we get through this together,’ Mr Andrews said.

‘We’ll continue meeting with and listening to businesses, so we can do everything we can to support them and their workers.’

From Monday, the city of Melbourne will move from the strict Stage Four lockdown into the first step of the roadmap toward reopening.

While modest, the changes will allow for more time outdoors and social interactions.

Mr Andrews said if numbers were kept low the state could open with ‘real confidence’ and keep them low.

‘You can open up and stay open,’ he said. ‘That is what we want and that is what we will deliver.

‘That is what we will deliver in regional Victoria and right across metropolitan Melbourne, not bouncing in and out of lockdowns, but making sure that everything that Victorians have given counts for something and delivers us, as I said, a summer that will be like no other.’ 

People living alone or single parents will be able to invite one other person into their homes.

Mr Andrews said he would allow ‘social bubbles’ even when exercising outdoors, which will now be extended to up to two hours per day – which can be split over two sessions. 

Playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment will reopen, and Melbourne’s 8pm lockdown has been pushed back to 9pm.  

Regional Victoria will also enjoy the loosening of several restrictions after successfully stemming the spread of the virus.

Up to five people from two separate households will be able to gather in public places, while outdoor pools and playgrounds will also open.

Religious services will be able to go ahead with up to five people.  

‘What we’ve seen in regional Victoria should give hope to all Victorians. If we all play our part, we can drive numbers down and get through this together,’ Mr Andrews said.

‘I’m so proud of Victorians for the way we are all working together to beat this virus – it means we can take our first safe and steady steps towards a COVID Normal tonight.’  

Victorians living in regional communities have also been given hope that these restrictions could be further lifted in a matter of days.   

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