COVID-19 Victorian Situation

Latest update December 16, 2020 (Note: This page will not be updated until February 1, 2021)

Victoria has now moved to the last step in reopening industry, venues and so on, however some restrictions remain. The announcements were made on Sunday, December 6 (see below).

The latest numbers: the total number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Victoria remains at 20,352.  There have been no new community infections in 48(?) days. The 14 day 'rolling average' for local cases is zero - effectively we have currently eliminated the virus in the Victorian community. However, there have been 7 cases acquired internationally since the state began accepting returning travellers last week. They are all in hotel quarantine. The total death toll in Victoria remains at 820. For up to date stats, go to the COVID Live website. 

However, a recent cluster of new cases identified in South Australia, which had had a long period of zero community transmissions, illustrates the extreme infectiousness of this virus, and how crucial it is to maintain a high level of vigilance. Also, overseas arrivals are due to recommence next week - and it is highly likely that some of those returning will be COVID-19 positive. There will be a revamped hotel quarantine system in place, with many changes, including how workers will be employed. This follows the recommendations made in the recent inquiry into the hotel quarantine system. 

Easing of restrictions - 11:59 pm December 6:

There are no restrictions to leaving home. 

  • There will be a slow and safe return to workplaces for those who  have been working from home - with strict density requirements and cleaning protocols in place. (More information)
    • Small workplaces with less than 40 workers can have up to ten workers return to the workplace.
    • For medium and large workplaces that have not previously been able to open for onsite work, up to 25 per cent of the workers may return to the office with staggered arrival and departure times recommended.
       
  • Face coverings no longer need to be worn outdoors, unless physical distancing cannot be maintained (for example in a bus queue). They must be worn in shopping centres, supermarkets and when travelling on public transport or in hire cars. However a face covering must be carried at all times. See more on this page: COVID-19: masks and face coverings. Note that the government has announced that face shields, on their own, are not acceptable.

  • Social gatherings (more information)
    • Up to 30 persons from different households and their dependents can visit another home each day and can do so separately. Intimate partners are not included in the cap;
    • gatherings of up to 100 people in a public outdoor space from any number of households.

  • Shopping centres, shops, malls and market stalls must limit the number of customers and follow signage and cleaning recommendations

    • Restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs can open for seated and unseated service. They must use electronic record keeping and apply the two square metre rule to ensure that customers have enough room to keep 1.5 metres between themselves and others. There are no other limits on the number of customers. Venues can have up to 25 people before the two square metre rule needs to be applied.  Hospitality businesses can serve customers indoors and outdoors.  More information
  • Hairdressers; beauty, personal services and tattooing, provided everyone wears a mask are all operating;

  • Exercise: The number of people allowed in a venue or space is defined by the size of the space. Indoor spaces need to follow the four square metre rule when staffed. When unstaffed, then the eight square metre rule applies such as a 24 hour gym. The two square metre rule applies outdoors.  (more information): 
    • contact sport can resume
    • indoor venues, including indoor pools and gyms - up to 150 people; 50 people per class 
    • Outdoor pools - up to 300 people. 
    • Outdoor fitness classes - up to 100 people
    • Outdoor sports settings like tennis courts, golf courses and skateparks: open
    • Outdoor stadiums and arenas can open for up to 50 per cent seated capacity per space with up to a maximum of 500 patrons and a group limit of 50 people.
  • Indoor entertainment venues:

    • Dance floors can open in pubs and bars.  Venues must apply a four square metre rule to the dance floor, with a maximum of 50 people dancing at one time per dance area (such as in a nightclub with multiple dance floors). 
    • Indoor and outdoor seated entertainment venues can open for up to 75 per cent of seating capacity up to 1,000 patrons. For non-seated areas, venues can use the two square metre rule if using electronic record keeping. If using paper-based records, the four square metre rule applies. 
    • Large indoor venues, such as the NGV and Princess Theatre, can open for up to 50 percent of the total venue capacity (up to a maximum of 1,000 patrons). For non-seated areas, venues can use the two square metre rule if using electronic record keeping. If using paper-based records, the four square metre rule

    More information 

  • Community venues, including libraries and neighbourhood houses: limited by space and the two square metre rule.  More information.

  • Real estate auctions: up to 50 people outdoors; inspections: up to 20, plus the owners/residents of the property and the real estate agent. 

  • Face-to-face consultations at many allied health services;

  • Religion and Ceremonies: The cap on the numbers of people attending weddings, funerals and religious gatherings will go. Instead the two-square-metre rule will apply. (More information)

For more information both general and for each of the above areas, go to this page: Last Step - coronavirus roadmap for reopening. Also: COVID Safe Summer

The infringement offence for a breach of the CHO directions to target those people who are failing to self-isolate after testing positive to coronavirus or being identified as a close contact remains in effect. The on the spot fine is $4,957. Repeat offenders can be taken to court and face fines of up to $20,000. 

Businesses 

All open businesses must have a COVIDSafe Plan in place. The plan focuses on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace. Details on creating a COVID Safe workplace are available here.

The COVID Safe Plan must set out:  

  • The employer's actions to help prevent the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace 
  • The level of face-covering or personal protective equipment (PPE) required in your workplace 
  • How the employer will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace 
  • How the employer will meet all of the requirements set out by the Victorian Government. Some higher-risk industries or workplaces have additional requirements of employers and employees.   

More information can be found on this section of the Business Victoria website. There is a template available which can be utilised.

Update December 7:

With international arrivals recommencing this week, the current focus is now on hotel quarantine and ports of entry. This is to seek to keep community transmission at zero. 

For workplaces: 

  1. Density quotient for shared amenities/facilities indoors has been reduced from one person per 4sqm to one per 2sqm (see Workplace Directions clause  6 (14))
  2. Workers must carry masks but mask wearing is now not mandatory (although still recommended) in indoor spaces. The exceptions are any retail facility of 2000+ sqm, market or market stall and retail shopping centres and any retail space within a retail shopping centre) as well as commercial passenger vehicles and public transport as per Stay Safe Directions (Victoria)(No 4).
  3. Surveillance testing is still required in a number of areas, largely focussed on care facilities, commercial cleaning, hotel quarantine and ports of entry (maritime and airports). High-risk hospitals ( defined as those which have COVID wards or located in areas where there is community transmission).The requirements for those industries subject to surveillance testing are now in a table that will be linked to the W(AIO) Directions (No14)  - see clause 7(b). as at 5pm today (Monday) the table is still being finalised but should be up tonight.
  4. COVID Marshals are still required in a range of industries (Ports of Entry, Hotel Quarantine, Care facilities, Meat/Poultry Seafood, Supermarket DCs (metro only), Chilled Distribution facilities for Perishable Food (metro only) , High-risk hospitals, gyms and personal training facilities (when staff are present), casinos and electronic gaming facilities). The requirements for the latter two areas (gums/casinos & gaming) are in the Restricted Activity Directions (Victoria) (No3)  while the rest are in the W(AIO)Ds (No 14).
  5. Health question declarations are required for hotel quarantine, ports of entry, care facilities and high risk hospitals and temperature testing is required only in hotel quarantine and ports of entry.
  6. Multiple site working is no longer prohibited in any sector, but in care facilities it must only occur if it is not reasonably practicable and in both care facilities and hospitals the employee must make a declarations about the second employment and the employer must keep a record.
  7. Return to work of staff who were working from home is up to 25% from 30 November to 11 January. Then it increases to up to 50% from 11 January (but for the public service up to 25% from 11 January and 50% from 8 February).  

The Directions can be found at https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorias-restriction-levels-covid-19

Advice to HSRs - Consultation 

As noted above, all businesses which are operating in metropolitan Melbourne must have a COVIDSafe or a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan in place. Remember, your employer has a duty to consult with HSRs under s35 of the Act, including when developing and implementing the COVIDSafe plan. Contact your union or the OHS Team at Trades Hall if you have any questions. WorkSafe has recently released a new video on Consultation - specifically in relation to making workplaces COVID-safe.