Update: Return to mask wearing indoors, private gathering restrictions reintroduced

In response to new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 occurring within the Whittlesea local government area and surrounds, the Victorian Government has announced additional restrictions that will come into effect from 6:00pm on 25 May 2021. The restrictions are stated to remain in effect until 4 June 2021 but will be subject to ongoing review.

Masks are now mandatory again in all indoor spaces. This includes all patrons and staff of retail and hospitality premises, physical recreation centres and in office buildings – except where a person is working in a private enclosed internal space. General exemptions continue to apply, i.e. removing masks while eating/drinking, undertaking strenuous exercise, or smoking.

The new restrictions include a reduction in indoor private gatherings to 5 persons per day per household, and a reduction for public gatherings to 30 persons.

The State Government has confirmed that these changes do not, at this stage, affect major public events such as AFL matches. In answering questions from the media, it appears that weddings, funerals and other functions held on commercial private premises will not be subject to the gathering limits or other restrictions – other than the mask-wearing rules.

Hospitality operators in particular are reminded that chefs and servers must wear masks indoors. Patrons who are not consuming food and drink are also required to wear masks. We note that it has previously been accepted practice that patrons who are seated for the purposes of partaking in food and drink can remove their masks. However, we note that patrons no longer have to be seated to consume food and drink, and as such monitoring standing patrons wearing masks will undoubtedly be more difficult for operators. The DHHS has not put forward any guidance on this point as yet.

The restrictions affect all residents and businesses in the Greater Melbourne area. There is currently no restriction on travel between Greater Melbourne and Regional Victoria. However, the restrictions that apply within the Greater Melbourne area will follow any travellers into regional Victoria – i.e. a resident of Greater Melbourne may visit Regional Victoria but must wear masks in any indoor spaces.

Updated written directions will issue later today and we will issue any further updates if required.

Pause on density changes

The State Government did announce a ‘pause’ on the foreshadowed easing of restrictions with respect to density quotients that was due to take effect on 28 May 2021.

We will provide a further update regarding the changes to density quotients when they are due to be reintroduced, which at this stage appears to be at least after 4 June 2021.

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.