COVID-19 Victorian Situation

Latest update September 23, 2020

In early August the Victorian government declared a state of disaster and announced further restrictions and changes to penalties due to the number of infections still being too high. Metropolitan Melbourne would now be now under Stage 4 restrictions, and the rest of the state under Stage 3 restrictions. We are now at the end of the six week period, but on September 6, the Premier announced that while the numbers of new infections are coming down, they are still not low enough for Melbourne to come out of Stage 4 restrictions. While there have been some changes (see below), Stage 4 were extended for another two weeks, which began at midnight September 13. Over the weekend restrictions in regional Victoria were relaxed to the point where it is now ok to have up to five people visiting the home, gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors. Most businesses in regional Victoria are now able to reopen - but all must have a COVIDSafe plan in place. For hospitality (restaurants and bars) this means re-opening with limits on numbers. People are able to go out to eat, meet in public and visit each other - again with limits to numbers. 

The latest numbers: there were 15 new cases diagnosed yesterday, September 22. There were five deaths, all linked to aged care outbreaks. These bring the total death toll to 771. The active cases in Victoria are now 554. The 14 'rolling average' is now below 30, which means that it is possible that some further announcements on reducing some restrictions will be made on Sunday.

This week non-urgent elective surgery has resumed, but not yet at 100 per cent. Regional hospitals will move to 75 per cent of pre-COVID activity, 85 per cent by September 28 and then to 100 per cent in October. For metropolitan Melbourne, the resumption will be a little slower. 

Current restrictions 

The Premier announced the government's two 'roadmaps' for the easing of restrictions - one for metropolitan Melbourne, and the other for the rest of Victoria.

The situation remains that all Victorians must stay home unless for the four permitted reasons, and when leaving the home, the wearing of masks or face coverings is mandatory. (see more on this page: COVID-19: masks and face coverings.

Stage 4 restrictions have been extended for Metropolitan Melbourne for a further two weeks. The current restrictions are:

  • Curfews will be in operation from 9pm to 5am every evening, with people only allowed to leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.

  • From 5am – 9pm (this has been extended), Melburnians can still only leave their home for one of the following four reasons and in the following circumstances:

    • Necessary goods and services:
      • To shop for necessary goods and services, absolute maximum of 5km from the home, but staying as close to home as possible (eg the nearest supermarket)
      • Only one person per household once a day only
    • Exercise:
      • not more than 5km from the home
      • can exercise with one other person, keeping 1.5 metres apart, but neither can travel more than 5km from their home
      • it is now possible to be with one other person, or five from the same household, in a park or other outdoor location
      • exercise limited to once a day and for two hours (previously only one hour)
      • Parents/guardians caring for a young child or someone who cannot be left unattended can take them out and this does not count as their exercise outing
      • outdoor playgrounds will now be open 
    • Care and health care:
      • Attendance at health care or medical appointments is permitted: the advice is not to put off getting medical care.
      • It is permissible to leave home to care for a sick or elderly relative, or to accompany them for essential medical treatment: keeping 1.5 metres distance if possible, and wearing a face covering.
      • Taking pets to the vet is allowed.
    • Work:
      • Anyone who can work from home must continue to work from home. Further announcements regarding workplaces will be made in the coming days.
      • Study at TAFE and university must be done remotely.
      • Some workers will be able to return to work. 
      • libraries and toy libraries will now be open - for click and collect only
    • Personal:
      • intimate partner can be visited
      • Singles can now nominate a household which becomes their 'social bubble' and are permitted to visit/receive visits from them
      • Shared parenting arrangements, both formal and informal, can continue for children
      • People can leave home if there is an emergency, or if there is family violence, or violence by another person in the home. In the latter case, if stopped by police, the advice is to inform them to get help. Safe accommodation and support for family violence is available. Call safe steps on 1800 015 188 or email safesteps@safesteps.org.au for help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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. 

The next step, which will mean a further easing of restrictions, will come into effect after 28 September and we reach an average daily case rate in metro Melbourne of 30 to 50 cases over a 14 day period with public health advice regarding transmission source.

For more information on the roadmaps, go to the following pages:

Business restrictions

Businesses are in one of three 'lists':

  1. Essential: Supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, bakeries, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, newsagencies, post offices, as well as those services involved in frontline response – will continue to operate.

  2. Non-essential: Industries where onsite operations will have to cease for six weeks - including retail, some manufacturing and administration. These businesses will need to close by 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August, unless they have specific circumstances that mean they need longer to shut down safely.

    Retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place, and hardware stores can remain open onsite, but for tradespeople only. 

  3. Industries that are permitted to operate – but under significantly different conditions.

Industries permitted to operate

There are a number of industries that cannot close. However because of a number of COVID-19 cases, or where there are emerging new risks, the government has implemented a number of  changes to make these workplaces safer for workers and for their families.

This includes mandated reductions to the number of workers onsite.

  • The meat industry workforce will be scaled back to two-thirds. This will apply to abattoirs in Melbourne and across the state.

  • Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

  • The construction sector will also move to pilot-light levels. For major construction sites, this is the absolute minimum required for safety, but no more than 25 per cent of the normal workforce onsite. Small-scale construction will be limited to a maximum of 5 people onsite.

These workplaces that are continuing to operate also have additional requirements:

  1. From 11.59 pm Wednesday August 5, employers who require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees. Workers must be able to show these permits when travelling to and from work. More information and a Worker Permit template is on the Business Victoria website.

  2. Businesses will need to provide extra PPE, have staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and more support for sick workers to ensure they stay home. All open businesses and services must now have a COVIDSafe plan in place (as of 11:59pm August 7). This plan must focus on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace. Details on creating a COVID Safe workplace are available hereRead more: Premier's media statement.

  3. There are changes to business restrictions commencing at 11.59pm September 13 with a 'stepped' process also - see this page for the Industry Restriction levels, Metropolitan Melbourne.

 

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.

Advice to HSRs - Consultation 

As noted above, and in accordance with Stage 4 restrictions, all businesses which are operating in metropolitan Melbourne must have finalised their COVID Safe Plan by 11:59 August 7. 

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.