Victoria's new coronavirus restrictions on masks, Christmas visits and working from home revealed by Daniel Andrews - ABC News  11/22/2020 01:47:35 

Victorians will be able to celebrate Christmas in their homes with up to 30 guests, and enjoy a summer outdoors mostly free of masks.

Here's how the rules will be changing in the next few weeks.

Up to 15 household guests from Monday

Starting from 11:59pm on November 22, 15 visitors will be allowed in homes each day.

Though Victoria has gone more than three weeks with zero new coronavirus cases, Premier Daniel Andrews stressed the situation was "fragile" and people should take the limits seriously.

"What we've seen all over the world, and certainly here some months ago, is that gatherings in the family home can be the most dangerous," he said.

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Premier Daniel Andrews outlines how restrictions will change from 11:59pm Sunday.

The 15 visitors can be split over the day and each visitor can come from a different household.

Dependents are counted among the 15, but babies aged under one are not.

Outdoor gathering sizes will also grow, with up to 50 people allowed.

Mr Andrews said the same household gathering limits would also apply to people booking holiday homes.

How many people can I have over for Christmas lunch?

From 11:59pm on December 13, up to 30 visitors will be allowed in households each day.

"That's not 30 for lunch and 30 for dinner, that's 30 across the course of a day," Mr Andrews said.

The same rule goes for dependents, who are counted among the 30 unless it's a baby aged under one.

Mr Andrews said the mid-December date was an acknowledgement of other festive occasions and gatherings Victorians wished to mark in the final few weeks of 2020.

Will I still need to wear a mask over summer?

From November 23, masks will no longer be required to be worn outdoors, provided you can safely keep your distance.

But they will be required indoors, on public transport and in situations outside where distance cannot be maintained.

A woman wears a colourful mask, jacket, shirt and jeans as she walks past Flinders Street Station.
Victorians are being encouraged to keep their masks with them when they leave the house.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

Mr Andrews gave the example of a hardware store, where you wouldn't need a mask in the carpark but you would in the store.

And if you were queuing at a sausage sizzle and finding it a bit tricky to keep your distance from those around you, the mask should go back on.

"Carry the mask, because you never know, even outside, when you may need to wear it," he said.

When can I stop wearing a mask indoors?

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the rules on masks indoors would probably change next year, but mask use would remain a valuable "insurance policy" against superspreading events.

"You don't want to be in a situation where you suddenly find that hundreds of people have been exposed and people weren't wearing masks in an indoor setting," he said.

"[It's] most useful, obviously, when it's in place before the fact. If you're introducing it after the fact, when transmission has occurred, it's going to have less value."

Two people wearing face masks on a tram in Melbourne.
Face masks will remain mandatory on public transport.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

Professor Sutton estimated the use of masks in Victoria had "probably reduced transmission by a quarter" and helped the state reach its current level of control over the pandemic two to three weeks earlier than it otherwise could have.

He also highlighted the situation facing the US states of North Dakota and South Dakota, which have been "anti-mask" for most of the pandemic.

"They've got the highest rates of transmission in the world at the moment, absolutely overwhelmed health systems," he said.

Cafes, restaurants and bars can host more patrons

As expected, hospitality venues will be able to host up to 300 patrons across their venues from November 23.

A maximum of 150 of those can be hosted inside, with the existing density limits of one customer per 4 square metres remaining in place.

a tattooed hand holding a phone over a QR code in a cafe
Hospitality venues must continue to keep a record of patrons who sit down for a meal.(ABC News: Jack Fisher)

But Mr Andrews said after industry feedback, the rules had been slightly tweaked for smaller venues.

They will be able to operate at a more relaxed density limit of one person per 2 square metres, but with a lower cap of 50 patrons.

Limits eased for gyms, pools and outdoor sports

From November 23, indoor physical recreation or sport will be able to take place with up to 150 people in groups of 20, with a density limit of one person per 4 square metres.

Those limits also apply to gyms.

Outdoor sport can restart with 500 people, in groups of 50 and with the same density limit in place.

Organisers of matches will be able to apply to host a public event, with different rules and requirements in place depending on the nature of the event.

Mr Andrews said larger venues such as the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) would be able to reopen at 25 per cent capacity, with density requirements to avoid people clustering in small spaces within the venue.

Up to 150 people will be able to swim at indoor pools, and 300 outside.

When can I go back to the office?

From November 30, a gradual return to work will occur for those working from home.

It will start with the return of just 25 per cent of staff, and the Premier said he couldn't speculate on when the state would be able to safely accommodate a full return to office workplaces.

It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure that 25 per cent cap and a density limit of one person per 4 square metres is followed.

Businesses with fewer than 40 staff can have 10 staff on-site subject to density quotients.

Mr Andrews said the public service would continue to work from home to allow the private sector's gradual return to begin first.

Buttons in a lift
Increased cleaning of shared surfaces will be among the COVID-safe measures required as Victorians return to office workplaces.(ABC News)

Professor Sutton said the COVID-safe principles for workplaces should be well known by this stage of the pandemic.

"Excluding anyone who's unwell, enabling them to stay home when they're unwell, making sure that hand hygiene is supported as much as possible [with] soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel, and to minimise those opportunities for transmission," he said.

"So still trying to keep your distance, masks will be in place, so really ensuring that all of those basic principles are adhered to."

Universities will start to return to campus learning

Mr Andrews said higher education would begin its return to on-campus learning over summer, with rules and COVID-safe planning in place.

With the state accepting international arrivals from December 7, Mr Andrews said he hoped international students would be able to return in 2021.

An outside shot of then university of Melbourne
Students will begin to return to university campuses across Victoria over summer.(ABC News: Patrick Stone)

But he said it was "very challenging" to lay out a clear timeline, given the demand it would place on the hotel quarantine system.

"We'll do everything we can  we know that international education is our biggest export, it's a very important part of the Victorian economy," he said.

Cinemas, galleries and libraries able to welcome bigger crowds

From November 23, cinemas and small galleries will be able to invite up to 150 people indoors, while bigger venues such as the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) will be limited to 25 per cent capacity.

A sign reads 'Please queue here for entry' outside the State Library Victoria.
The State Library Victoria is among the state's public institutions welcoming visitors back after months of closure.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

There'll be no cap on viewers at drive-in cinemas.

Up to 150 people will be allowed indoors at community venues and libraries, and 300 outside.

Gaming machine venues can host 150 people, but every second machine must be turned off to ensure physical distancing.

More people can gather for weddings and funerals

Up to 150 people will be able to gather indoors for weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies from November 23.

Professor Sutton said some of the specific aspects of weddings and services, such as singing and dancing, may be guided more by advice rather than legal restrictions.

A close up photo of Emily Sinclair wearing a white face mask adorned with pearls.
Couples will be able to share their wedding day with bigger crowds indoors.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)

"Clearly nightclubs are seated only, that's because the exertion of dancing and the closer movement that occurs is a higher risk of transmission," he said.

"The recommendations for weddings would certainly be not to have that as well  whether it's written into public health directions, I can come back to you on."

What about the SA border?

A permit system came into place on Sunday to manage the flow of traffic across the South Australian border, as that state works to manage an outbreak linked to its hotel quarantine program.

Health Minister Martin Foley said exemptions would remain for people providing or receiving emergency care or services, and people whose property straddled the border.

He said those from high-risk sites would not be granted permits, but as the South Australian Government was already not allowing them to move about the state he did not anticipate that would pose an issue.

"If you come from metropolitan Adelaide & you will be granted a permit, but under conditions," he said.

"And these conditions require you to provide your travel information, a strong recommendation that you be tested & [and that you detail] how long you are going to be in Victoria and contact information while you are in Victoria."

More information on the permit system can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Righto. When's the next restrictions announcement?

The Premier said he would hold another press conference on Sunday December 6 to outline further steps towards a COVID-normal summer for Victoria.

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