Change welcomed but more is needed, say locals

By Brayden May

REGIONAL Victoria is moving to the third step of the Victorian Government's COVID-19 roadmap, but Echuca-Moama remains divided, according to the towns’ leaders.

On Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the third step would come into effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

Businesses and residents have welcomed that move, but say restrictions must be eased on the NSW-Victorian border before life can return to normal.

While intrastate travel is now allowed in regional Victoria, those coming from outside the border bubble can’t travel into NSW.

Echuca-Moama Accommodation Association president Grant Casbolt said Victoria's move was a small step forward.

“Any opening is going to be good,” he said.

“But it means only half of our community is benefitting from the tourists. We won’t feel the full effect of these changes until the border is opened again by the NSW Government.”

Under step three, public gatherings can include as many as 10 people and schools will go back in term four.

All residents can now have up to five visitors in their home, but only from one nominated household.

Hospitality can re-open for mainly outdoor seated service, as well as takeaway.

Pubs, restaurants and cafés can have up to 20 patrons inside across two areas, with a maximum of 10 per zone subject to the 4sqm rule.

Campaspe Shire Mayor Adrian Weston said the hospitality industry would benefit from the announcement.

“We welcome the premier’s announcement for regional Victoria to move to step three in line with the state government’s roadmap to re-opening,” Cr Weston said.

“Any easing of restrictions to support businesses safely opening, or increasing trade, greatly assists our business sector.

“Step three focuses on providing outdoor dining to allow businesses to maximise the numbers of customers that are able to dine-in.

“We have set up a concierge service to support the hospitality sector, with details available on our website shortly.

“Until operating restriction details are announced, we cannot advise what council services may be opening and how they will operate. We will update the community when known.”

All retail will be allowed to open, including hairdressers and personal care, but masks must be worn during services.

Echuca's Wax On owner Joy Seymour said she couldn’t be happier.

“After a rollercoaster year, it’s fantastic to get this news,” she said.

“Our staff were wearing masks before this shutdown period, so it won’t be anything different for us.

“The only adjustment we’ll have to make is we won’t be able to do facials, but we will consult with our clients so they can do it at home.

“I’m just pleased to have some hope for the rest of the year.”

Community sport — contact and non-contact — can resume for those under the age of 18.
Those over 18 can participate only in non-contact sports.

“It’s very important that kids in Victoria will be able to get back to playing sport,” Echuca District Netball Association president Betty McComb said.

“But unfortunately, we still can’t offer anything, including our spring season, because our players can’t travel across the river.

“We could look at possibly holding training sessions to keep our members involved and active.

“We can’t go back to full operation until the border is re-opened.”

Gyms will remain closed for indoor sessions, but exercise and training can take place outdoors with limited numbers.

Other key changes include weddings being able to have 10 people (including the bridal couple, two witnesses and celebrant); funerals allowed 20 people (including those conducting services); outdoor events and venues re-opening in the entertainment sector (subject to pre-approved plans) and real estate allowed to hold private inspections and auctions with up to 10 people.