Announcing the easing of restrictions at a press conference on Monday, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said that starting Tuesday at 11:59 a.m., Melbourne residents will be allowed to leave their homes and most businesses in the state can be reopened with a limited number of people.
“With 0 cases and a lot of testing, we can say that now is the time to open. Now is the time to congratulate every victory,” said Andrews.
The sharp drop in cases has led the government to lift socially segregated measures that have been in place for weeks.
As cases began this summer, Andrews has imposed strict anti-epidemic measures in which governments in Western Europe and the United States have been reluctant to issue regulations for fear of harming the economy and oppressing civil liberties.
East Asian governments, including those in China, South Korea and Taiwan, do not need to comply with these restrictions because immediate efforts to contain the virus have focused on testing and monitoring, as well as the readiness of their people to spread the word and follow the epidemic.
Andrews says Victoria can prevent the spread of the disease because people are willing to endure hardship, listen to science and follow the rules.
“I can not decide better than I am today to lead a state that shows courage, compassion, and character to do this work,” he said.
“We have to be careful weeks and months … until the vaccine arrives, it’s not normal. Only Covid-normal.”
Under the mitigating measures, employees were allowed to return to their business immediately to prepare customers and have anti-epidemic measures in place.
Some restrictions, including the 25-kilometer (15-mile) travel limit and the internal border between Victoria and Melbourne, will remain in place until November 8.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the state for reducing the number of Covid-19 cases and congratulating the Victorians on “great progress in reducing the rate of Covid-19 infection.”
“They have shown their role and sacrificed a lot in pursuing those goals in the faith restrictions will be eased,” he said.
Morrison added that Victoria will open the state border at Christmas. They were shut down as part of the federal response to the epidemic.
Victoria and the capital, Melbourne, face some of Australia’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks during the Australian dry season.
Andrews said Monday that the government will not be prompted by the loudest voices to reopen before health experts consider it safe to do so.
Andrews advised earlier this month that authorities are considering lifting more restrictions if the trend continues in the right direction. However, small groups of cases on the northern outskirts of Melbourne prompted him to put on a “cautious pause” to test more than 4,000 residents, with further delays.
Almost all tests returned negative. Andrews says health officials can deny widespread referrals to the community.
“It’s worth the wait to make sure,” he said.