Update: Early easing of restrictions announced in Victoria

The Victorian Government has today announced a significant easing of restrictions from 11:59pm tonight. The easing of restrictions is roughly 5 days ahead of the scheduled Phase D of the National Plan, and brings forward many of the changes that were scheduled to take place in Phase D.

A press statement is attached. The State has not yet published a ‘table’ of changes to restrictions, or updated the COVIDSafe Settings on the Coronavirus website.

The followings changes to restrictions were announced:

  1. Hospitality venues will be able to operate at full capacity with standing service without density limits in any indoor and outdoor spaces – including pubs, clubs, cafes and nightclubs. An announcement has not been made yet regarding any change to spacing requirements for gaming machines.
  2. Dancing will be permitted in indoor and outdoor settings.
  3. Physical recreation and sport facilities were not explicitly addressed on conference, but it is expected that density requirements were similarly fall away. These facilities were also not mentioned with respect to mask-wearing requirements.
  4. Masks will no longer be required in many settings. Masks will continue to be required for:
    1. Workers serving the public at hospitality venues;
    2. Workers and customers in indoor retail facilities;
    3. Staff and visitors in primary schools and for students in Years 3 to 6;
    4. Visitors and select workers in hospital or care facilities; and
    5. The public on public transport and in taxi and rideshare services, and on planes.
  5. Indoor and outdoor major public events with less than 30,000 fully vaccinated attendees will be able to proceed with no special approval. Outdoor events with 30,000 or more fully vaccinated attendees will only need to publish their COVIDSafe Plan – which we understand is consistent with the current major event framework.
  6. On-site work, including offices, warehouses and logistics can return for anyone who is fully vaccinated.
  7. There will be no limits on the number of visitors to the home.

Vaccinated economy settings will remain in place, in accordance with our previous update, a copy of which is attached. That means that any facility that wants to operate per the above must ensure all staff and customers are fully vaccinated or exempt.

Vaccinated economy settings will also apply to non-essential retail, meaning that businesses must ensure that all customers and staff are fully vaccinated. This is a change from the previous level of restrictions, which allowed non-essential retail settings to permit customers who are not fully vaccinated.

This vaccination requirement applies to any person who is over 12 years and 2 months of age (i.e. a 12 year old who has had 2 months to become fully vaccinated).

A list of essential retail, to which this rule will not apply, is listed online: https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-sector-guidance-retail-trade#definitions

Changes to Contact Tracing

The Victorian Government has also announced changes to contact tracing and self-quarantine, including in relation to hospitality venues and workplaces.

From 11:59pm tonight, most people who come into contact with a confirmed positive case outside their home will not have to self-quarantine. Contacts will only be required to have a standard PCR test and isolate until they receive a negative result. This will generally be the case for patrons and staff exposed to a confirmed positive case in offices, restaurants and nightclubs.

Where there is an outbreak of concern or superspreader event, the Victorian Government is able to impose a quarantine period on contacts, but this will not automatically apply.

People who are confirmed as positive cases of COVID-19 will be required to notify their workplace, school or childcare about their positive result. Once workplaces are informed of this positive result, workplaces will have to identify and notify employees and sub-contractors who were exposed and advise them to get tested. Workplaces will not need to notify customers, as customers will be notified through the alert function in the Service Victoria app.

A further update confirming these changes will follow when the new Directions are released overnight.

The easing of restrictions is obviously very welcome news for the hospitality industry ahead of what will hopefully be a busy period of trade.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.