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Crowds return

Crowds return

Football and netball crowds return

Wimmera and Horsham District football and netball league leaders are breathing easier with statewide COVID-19 restrictions now allowing up to 1000 patrons at outdoor venues.

Officials from both leagues are awaiting formal confirmation from peak groups AFL Victoria and Netball Victoria but are confident the latest changes will mean clubs will be able to run games efficiently and comfortably this weekend.

They also hope the changes will dramatically ease anxiety surrounding previous restrictions, which they feared would add to crippling financial and social circumstances in their sports.

In updated State Government restrictions, from 11.59pm tomorrow, physical recreation and sport will open with a density quotient of one person per four square metres.

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There is also an outdoor patron cap of 1000, which includes the minimum number of people required to participate in and run activities, and spectators up to venue limits.

There will be a maximum indoor-venue capacity of 300 people and maximum group size of 50.

Wimmera league chairperson Pauline Butler and her Horsham District league counterpart Fred Mellington have been highly outspoken about circumstances the clubs faced under no-spectator rules.

Both are tentative in commenting about the changes until they had official confirmation but Mr Mellington says, ‘a spring might have returned’ to his step and Ms Butler said, ‘it all looks very promising’.

Other major restriction changes likely to affect regional community football in particular will be the removal of a travel limit between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Acting premier James Merlino revealed the changes today.

Here is his statement:

Since this pandemic started, distance has been one of the hardest things to live with.

Distance from our neighbours, from our workplaces - from the people we love and the places we’ve missed.

Distance that has kept us apart but kept us safe and saved lives.

But Victoria’s at its best when we’re together.

And I know we’re all waiting to see those people and places we’ve missed, which is why, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, Victoria will soon safely begin coming back together.

From 11.59pm Thursday 17 June, the 25km travel limit will be removed and travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will resume.

Two visitors per day (plus dependants) will be permitted to gather inside the home in metro Melbourne, and up to five people (plus dependants) in regional Victoria.

Twenty people can gather outside in Melbourne, and 50 in regional Victoria. Masks will continue to be required indoors but they are no longer required outdoors – however they’ll still be recommended when you can’t maintain physical distancing.

In Melbourne, funerals can be held with up to 75 mourners, and weddings no more than 20 – and 100 mourners and 50 wedding guests in regional Victoria.

Gyms can open across Melbourne, with density limits and COVIDSafe plans in place. And hair and beauty services can now operate without masks during service.

These are positive changes, but it’s important to note that there are still some differences between regional and metropolitan settings.

We have not seen cases at all in regional Victoria. But knowing what we do about how infectious the Delta and Kappa strains are, and how quickly we saw them move through the community prior to the lockdown, we must remain vigilant.

We want to keep regional Victoria virus free – that’s why the public health team have recommended slightly stronger settings for Melbourne as extra protection while we run down any remaining cases.

These rules mean that people will now be able to travel across the state, but also recognise that the majority of interactions in regional Victoria will be between regional Victorians.

And for Melbournians travelling to the snow this season, that means a requirement for everyone to get a COVID test within 72 hours of departing for Victoria’s alpine resorts, and a negative result.

International experience has shown us that there is a high risk of spread in cold climates, where people come together to socialise and spend time indoors after a day out on the slopes.

There will be plenty more detail online, and if cases continue to remain low, we’ll be able to ease restrictions further in another week.

But as we’ve said many times – this isn’t over.

We all know better than most just how easily this virus takes hold and keeping on top of the situation means that we all have to protect our freedoms.

That means continuing to do the things that have diffused this outbreak.

But it’s no exaggeration to say the single most important thing every single Victorian can do is to get tested as soon as they have even the mildest of symptoms.

As we head deeper into winter – this becomes more important than ever.

We can’t assume that a scratchy throat is the sign of a winter cold.

Find out for sure – get tested.

Thank you for everything you’ve done so far to protect our state.

I know it hasn’t been easy.

But we’re getting there.

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