THE AUSTRALIAN Coronavirus battleground is squarely located in Melbourne.
June 22 was meant to bring everyone closer to a state where we can go down to the local for a pot and a parma, but a steady increase in the number of new cases in Victoria — and specifically in Melbourne — saw new cases hit triple figures on the first weekend in July with 108 new cases reported on Saturday.
The State Government has now enforced Stage 3 restrictions (the same as we all lived under through April/May) in 10 metro-Melbourne postcodes in the north and west of Melbourne and has instigated full lockdowns in nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne.
At Saturday’s press conference, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews likened the spread, and the authorities’ response to COVID-19, to bushfire.
“The close confines and the shared community spaces within these large apartment blocks means this virus can spread like wildfire.
“And just like fire, we need to put a perimeter around it to stop it from spreading.”
As we go to press, the reality of these new lockdowns for affected Melbournians is only just coming to light.
Manningham and Nillumbik are a long way away from the threat of similar lockdowns being imposed, however, there are a very small number of active cases in Manningham and surrounding municipalities so the situation in the north and the west is a glimpse into what could be if we become complacent.
The uptick in cases and the Government’s response also falls during the school break and will mean, for many, yet another school holiday period spent at home.
The national response to Victoria’s COVID-19 resurgence has been to close the borders.
In an early morning conference call on July 6, the Victorian and NSW Premiers and the Prime Minister agreed that the border between NSW and Victoria is to be closed for the first time in 100 years, which now means that as of midnight July 7 there is no travel in either direction across the Murray.
South Australia’s border has remained closed since March, which has seen tension in cross-border communities.
Tasmania, Western Australia and Northern Territory are also closed to Victorians, unless granted an exception or spending 14 days in quarantine.
Queensland has stated that Victorians from COVID-19 hotspots are unable to travel to that state, but as of July 3, Queensland considers all 79 Local Government Areas within Victoria as hotspots.
For communities outside the hotspots, the restrictions reintroduced on June 22 are in place until at least July 12 and restrict the number of people you can have in your home and the size of social groups in public places.
Under the current restrictions, in a home, excepting the people who usually reside there, a household is allowed up to five additional guests.
This includes both indoor and outdoor spaces on the property and whilst guests can stay the night, the limit of five people needs to be adhered to.
In public spaces, groups are limited to a maximum of 10 people.
Businesses such as cafes and restaurants remain open but are currently limited to a maximum of 20 people, in compliance with the four-square-metre (4m2) rule, and gyms and yoga studios have also reopened, although classes are limited to a maximum of 10 participants, plus the instructor and any other required support staff.
General multi-use areas, such as the gym floor are limited to 20 people, in compliance with the 1.5 metre and the 4m2 rules.
There is good news for junior sport, the 2020 Junior grassroots footy season is scheduled to begin on July 12.
For community sport and recreation that takes place outside of a sporting facility (such as bush walking and mountain biking on local trails), groups are limited to 10 people who do not normally reside together and it is prohibited for a group to organise to have two (or more) parties of 10 to meet for a common purpose.
Basketball may also make a late return this year, Warrandyte Basketball Association (WBA) spoke to the Diary about the measures the club is taking to make a return to play possible.
“Warrandyte Basketball is excited about the return of basketball.
“We are working with Basketball Victoria, YMCA and local government to ensure the health and safety of our basketball community is prioritised whilst getting players back on the court.
“To help us implement return to basketball health and safety protocols we are actively recruiting Biosafety Officers.
“We are waiting for confirmed dates for the return of competition from EDJBA and Basketball Victoria.”
Since mid-May, The Grand Warrandyte has been closed, preparing for a return to business and finishing work on its new beer garden.
The Diary spoke with Manager Peter Appleby about the mechanics of the proposed re-opening on July 16.
“We will open the public bar first, utilising the old and new area and the outdoor area once completed.
“Table service is defined as consuming a drink and meal at a table with no vertical drinking — guests can order at the bar but must return to their table.
“However, there is no requirement to order food anymore.
“Guests are most welcome to treat the public bar as a public bar, and come in for a cold beer without a meal,” he said.
Unlike other venues across Australia which introduced mandatory booking post-COVID, Peter says booking is not required to enjoy The Grand, once it reopens.
“With opening the public bar in Stage One, this will be on a first in best dressed basis as a continuation of what we have done in the past,” he said.
The new outdoor beer garden is nearing completion and with concrete pouring taking place in early July, Peter and the team are looking forward to welcoming patrons back into The Grand.
“We look forward to seeing our loyal customers returning and meeting new customers too.
“We have the safety of our staff and customers as our priority and we ask for patience from our customers as we adhere to the new rules and patron limits.
“With the inclusion of our new outdoor space, we welcome everybody to come in and check it out and tell their friends and family.
“We have had an overwhelming amount of support over the past three months with emails and messages and we look forward to reconnecting with everybody once we are permitted to open our doors,” he said.
Bramleigh Estate owner, Mary-Anne Lowe has also been awaiting some much-needed good news from the government.
At the moment weddings are still limited to 20 guests, plus the couple, plus the celebrant, which is having a huge financial impact on the wedding industry.
Ms Lowe recently contacted Member for Croydon David Hodgett about the distress the Wedding industry is facing about a lack of a road-map for the wedding industry to reach a state of COVID-Normal.
The local arts community is also taking the first tentative steps to a return to normal.
After closing in March, The Stonehouse Gallery on Yarra Street reopened its doors to the public on July 1.
Beatrix Mol, a member of the artist collective who run the space, spoke to the Diary about their decision to reopen.
“The 18 Stonehouse member artists have been busy behind the scenes in their studios creating exciting new artworks ready for the reopening.
“We have a large community of artists and makers who also have their work in the gallery and they have been bringing in their new work the past few weeks.
“It was decided six weeks ago that we would reopen on July 1 and the gallery will be showcasing the fabulous new work of our makers that has been created during the COVID-19 closure.
“We are so grateful to have had wonderful support on our social media and from our local community.
“Our following has increased even though the gallery has been closed this past three months.
“We are very thankful to our wonderful landlords who have been incredibly supportive and made this transition much easier,” she said.
The gallery has hand sanitisation stations, directional arrows (similar to Quinton’s IGA) and are stating a preference for contactless payment.
The gallery is open Wednesday–Sunday, 11am–4pm.
The COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving and it is imperative that we work together, as a community, to make sure we all get through 2020 with our health and our local businesses intact.
The Premier has made it explicitly clear when he told the media half the numbers are being transmitted during family get-togethers where attendees are not following the advice around distancing and hygiene.
“You can see how this could happen — people feeling relaxed at home, letting their guard down, letting old habits creep back.
“But we are still in a pandemic — and people’s lives are still at risk,” said Mr Andrews.
The latest developments demonstrate how contagious this virus is and the consequences of complacency.
The roadmap to COVID-Normal means finding a path to something resembling life before COVID-19 but we may never be COVID-Free which means the intimacy and proximity we used to practice openly may, very well, be a thing of the past.