Two small steps for regional Victoria, one giant leap at the skate park

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GREATER Shepparton awoke to the ‘Second Step’ towards ‘COVID Normal’ on Monday, and will move to the ‘Third Step’ from midnight tonight.

The move comes as a great relief to businesses and families of the region, who saw outdoor playgrounds and skateparks reopen, with schools set to return to onsite learning for term four and childcare opened to all children.

Under the Third Step, there are no restrictions on leaving home. Outdoor public gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed.

Victoria recorded 35 new Coronavirus cases on Monday and 42 on Tuesday, down from a peak of 725 new daily cases recorded early last month. There is one active case in Greater Shepparton, who is an inpatient at GV Health.

In regional Victoria, the rolling 14-day average of new cases dipped below four early this week, satisfying the criteria for regional areas to progress to the Third Step, which will see a reopening of cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating.

GV Hotel venue manager, Margaret Valentine, said the move to the Third Step was a huge relief.

“We’ve been doing takeaway, but it hasn’t been as good as the first lockdown. Now we can finally open up,” Ms Valentine said.

Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, John Anderson, welcomed the easing of restrictions, but added the roadmap for regional Victoria had been disappointingly slow.

“A lot of businesses are doing it really tough and it’s been causing distress in the community. Some, such as gyms, still have no real end in sight,” Mr Anderson said.

As part of the Victorian Government’s ‘Roadmap’, indoor gyms will be able to open after November 23 if there are no new cases state-wide for 14 days.

Further easing of restrictions under the Third Step include:

  • Up to five visitors allowed at home from one other household
  • All retail open
  • Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for 18s-and-under, outdoor non-contact sport only for adults

Despite the easing of restrictions, GV Health chief executive officer, Matt Sharp, warned there had been a significant reduction in the number of people getting tested at the Graham Street Acute Respiratory Clinic.

In the three-week period between August 18 to September 7 there was a 52 percent reduction in the number of tests carried out in the three-week period prior.

“It is possible that people are becoming complacent and even the mildest of symptoms that are similar to cold and flu symptoms can mean you have COVID-19,” Mr Sharp said.