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    OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Great Western Hotel publican Bruce Ahchow is among hospitality business operators both relieved and delighted to be able to reopen their establishments. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Wimmera region breathes a little easier as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Wimmera-Mallee communities joined the rest of regional Victoria in welcoming news of early respite from COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Hospitality and beauty and personal-service businesses in particular were breathing easier with a move to step three in the state’s recovery roadmap. 

The move represents an opportunity for many to reopen doors to customers.

Regional Victoria only moved into step two of the recovery roadmap on Monday but ‘trigger points’ prompted authorities to quickly jump forward a step.

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Under the new rules, there will be no restrictions on reasons to leave home or distances people can travel regionally.

Hospitality businesses in the regions will be able to serve patrons outdoors, with a cap of 50 seated patrons per venue, and an updated two-square-metre density limit in place.

Indoors, venues can open with a cap of 10 seated customers per space – with up to two spaces per venue – and in line with the existing four-square-metre density rule.

Tables must be spaced at least 1.5m apart, cleaned after every customer and the details of all patrons kept.

Great Western Hotel’s Bruce Ahchow was among many who welcomed the news yesterday.

“It’s a step in the right direction. Everyone had been waiting for it to happen,” he said.

“The key is to make sure we all understand the rules and limitations and go hard within those rules and limitations.

“Our view all the way through this has been to stay open where we can and put the right conditions in place and make sure our customers have access within those rules.

“I was on a conference call with Grampians Winemakers as the news came through. We suspended the meeting and everyone gave each other a virtual high five.”

Get out and explore

Grampians Tourism was also quick to respond, immediately encouraging regional Victorians to get out and explore.

Chief executive Marc Sleeman said after weeks of staying home, now was the time to get out in the great outdoors.

“Take in the stunning scenery and enjoy some locally produced food and wine,” he said.

“The Grampians offers something for all tastes and budgets and now is the perfect time to explore post lockdown.”

Face coverings

Beauty and personal-care services, facing a long road back from lockdown rules, will also be available with face-covering rules.

Strict mandatory rules regarding the wearing of masks remain in place for regional Victoria.

Childcare is open for all and schools in regional Victoria will have a staged return to onsite learning from the start of term four.

Weddings can include up to 10 people, funerals can have up to 20 people, excluding infants under 12 months or funeral officials.

Outdoor religious gatherings for up to 10 people plus a faith leader is allowed and places of worship are open for private worship for households or social bubbles, plus a faith leader.

The government is still encouraging regional Victorians to work from home if they can.

Step-three rules allow for outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people aged 18 and younger. 

Outdoor non-contact sport is available for adults, with gathering and density limits, although sporting organisations expect further clarity on community sport later this week.

Premier Daniel Andrews, in announcing details yesterday congratulated regional Victorians on their efforts to curb COVID-19.

He said he was ‘delighted’ to be able to announce regional Victoria could take the third step in the ‘safe and steady roadmap to COVID-normal’.

“I am so, so pleased and proud of every single regional Victorian who has stayed the course, followed the rules and got tested,” he said.

Regional Victoria is moving to the third step because the daily average case rate is less than five new cases across the previous 14 days.

There have also been no new cases with an unknown source in regional Victoria in the same period.

Under the roadmap to reopening, Victoria will move to the last step when there are no new cases in the state for 14 days. 

Safe and steady

Mr Andrews said ‘common sense, data and actual experience’ were driving factors behind decisions. 

“Thanks to the efforts of every Victorian, we’ve reached our very first target,” he said.

“It’s also good news for every Victorian, wherever they live because it shows – in very real terms – the strategy is working. The hard work of all Victorians is paying off.”

Amid the changes, Mr Andrews has declared that a State of Disaster will continue until October 11, 2020, unless revoked earlier.

People can get more detail online at

• Victoria recorded 42 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and zero deaths. 

There are 43 active cases in regional local government areas – zero in Ararat, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Northern Grampians, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack municipalities. 

The entire September 16, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!