Vic unmasks as Christmas, office rules set

Callum Godde
·3-min read

Victorians are breathing a welcome sigh of relief, with months of compulsory face mask-wearing coming to an end as part of a further lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced the latest round of rule changes to take effect from midnight, as well as future plans for Christmas events and the return of staff to offices.

"Masks will be required inside in all settings, they will not be required while outside," he told reporters.

"However you need to carry the mask with you because you will have to wear the mask outside if you can't distance."

Mr Andrews cited queuing up for a Bunnings sausage sizzle as a crowded environment in which people must still don masks outdoors.

Melburnians have been required to wear face masks outside since mid-July. As virus cases leaked out of the city, the rules were implemented for regional Victorians in early August.

Other tweaks from Monday include an allowance for 15 home visitors per day, up from two, while outdoor public gatherings can have up to 50 people.

For weddings and funerals, 150 people will be able to come together to celebrate or commiserate. The same applies to cinemas, galleries and museums.

Large restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to host up to 150 customers, while smaller venues will be limited to 50 and must use QR code record keeping.

The latest changes to social restrictions were unveiled as Victoria extended its streak without a new COVID-19 infection or death to 23 days. There remains only one active case across the state.

Mr Andrews also outlined additional moves back to normality in coming weeks, including up to 30 home visitors per day from December 13 - just in time for Christmas.

"That is not 30 for lunch and 30 for dinner, it is 30 across the course of the day," he said.

"I know that will be a large enough number for some families and for others they will need to do some juggling."

A fourth of Victoria's workers will be permitted back in workplaces from November 30, while the rest will have to continue working from home.

Public sector workers are not part of the 25 per cent cap, creating additional space for private businesses.

The premier flagged the next set of COVID-19 rule changes - likely the last before the end of the year - would be announced on December 6.

"I want to get to a situation where in the next couple of weeks we can lock in the rules and then people will know and have certainty that they are there for the whole summer," Mr Andrews said.

International arrivals into Melbourne are scheduled to resume from December 7, initially capped at 160 a day or 1120 a week.

Mr Andrews said the state will prioritise returning Australians, as NSW pushes to use a third of its cap on international students and skilled migrants.

The moves come as Victoria reopened to South Australia after a brief "hard border" was replaced on Sunday by a permit system.

SA residents can apply for a permit via the Services Victoria website but Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said not everyone would be eligible.

"For people from South Australia who are exposed to the South Australian government's defined high-risk sites, you will not be granted a permit," he said.

Communities in a 70km bubble around the interstate border can continue using SA government-issued permits.

NSW and the ACT open their borders to Victoria on Monday.