New mask, gathering rules for Victorians

Victorians can soon have 100 visitors at home and won’t need to wear masks at shops, in the most significant easing of restrictions since the start of the pandemic.

Acting Premier James Merlino announced that from 6pm on Friday, people will be able to have 100 visitors at home, up from the previous cap of 30, while public gatherings can double from 100 to 200.

“We know that the risk is far from over. But thanks to the incredible work of all Victorians, we’re continuing to open up and return to the city and the state we love, in terms of its life and vibrancy,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Masks will no longer be required in retail settings, though Victorians will still need to wear them on public transport, in taxis and rideshare vehicles and in aged care facilities and hospitals.

Density limits will be eased at casinos, nightclubs and karaoke venues from one person per four square metres to one person per two square metres, bringing the venues into line with cafes, pubs and restaurants. 

The 50-person cap on dancefloors will also be scrapped. 

More workers will also be able to return to the city, with the 75 per cent cap on private and public sector offices to be removed, though a density limit of one person per two square metres will still apply.

A revised flexible work policy for the Victorian public service was also released on Tuesday, which requires workers to return to the office at least three days a week.

Five new “suburban government hubs” will also be set up across Melbourne to allow public servants to work closer to home while also increasing economic activity in the suburbs.

One hub is already functional in Footscray, with two more in Mulgrave and Williams Landing to open before June 30. 

“It’s a reflection of a significant change in the way we work and live,” Mr Merlino said. 

“This will be a permanent shift and that’s the feedback we’ve got. You think about your own circumstances your families, your friends and colleagues, a lot of people want to have a work-life balance.” 

Meanwhile, crowd numbers have also been increased to 75 per cent of stadium capacity in time for round two of the AFL, meaning about 75,000 fans will be able to watch Carlton play Collingwood at the MCG on Thursday.

The eased restrictions come as the state’s active cases dropped to zero on Tuesday, for the first time since December 10 last year. 

It is also a year to the day the state entered its first of three lockdowns. 

The last active case was a person who arrived in Victoria from overseas. 

Most of the state’s quarantine hotels have remained non-operational after international flights were suspended on February 13, when a hotel quarantine worker contracted the highly infectious UK virus strain from returned travellers at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

The outbreak triggered the state’s five-day, circuit-breaker lockdown.

Freight flights have still been able to land since that date. 

Mr Merlino said a review into the variant strains of COVID-19 and another into the state’s hotel quarantine ventilation systems are now complete. 

He said an announcement on the state’s hotel quarantine program would be made “later in the week”.

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