Colac Otway is among six local government areas in regional Victoria with home visit bans, while face coverings are essential when outside your family home from today.
Premier Daniel Andrews fielded questions from regional media outlets last week and the Colac Herald hosted an online Q-and-A forum to respond to the community’s most pressing concerns.
Responses to some frequently asked questions are below:
Why are home visits banned?
The State Government said its data showed community transmission of COVID-19, or “mystery cases” were usually linked to social visits in homes rather than in cafes and pubs.
“The data tells us we’re not seeing transmission in those settings (cafes and pubs), but we are seeing transmission in workplaces that are higher risk, and in unsupervised environments like in family homes,” Mr Andrews said.
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Are any types of home visits allowed?
Yes. The Premier clarified that any reason that was permitted under previous stage three lockdown restrictions, which applied to Colac Otway from March until May 13, are also allowed under current rules. That includes things like existing shared custody arrangements, caregiving, and essential work such as home maintenance.
“Those exemptions that have operated in the past will continue to operate. We’re not about trying to keep partners apart or trying to interfere with shared custody arrangements. If someone’s elderly or unwell and needs to have those visits, or if you need a plumber to come and fix a problem, all of that is still possible,” he said.
The rules are meant to stop social visits, which Mr Andrews said is the main source of community transmission.
Can I travel to other areas of Victoria?
Mr Andrews’ directive is that when you travel, your rules travel with you – meaning home visits are off the table. Travel for reasons such as work and study and caregiving can happen, but you should limit them where possible.
If you live in Colac Otway Shire, Golden Plains, Greater Geelong, Moorabool, Queenscliffe or Surf Coast you can still travel outside of this area but you can’t visit friends or family at their homes other than in limited circumstances. And they can’t visit you where you stay.
You can still travel outside the shire to stay somewhere with your family who you already live with, or to see mates at a pub or a footy oval. But you must not enter their homes.
What other rules have changed?
Rules for public gatherings, and visiting shops, restaurants etc. remain the same, because there is little evidence of transmission in these settings.
“There are limits on maximum gatherings outside the home. The key difference isÖ the risk posed in outside environments is very much lower than indoor environments,” Mr Andrews said.
“There’s no advice to make changes to gathering limits or the nature of gatherings.”
What are the rules for schools?
The State Government said schools remained safe environments, except in instances of a positive case at the school.
Advice indicates children younger than 12 don’t need to wear face coverings, so the rules apply to secondary schools only.
“We’re not going to be going and fining 12-year-olds in Grade Six, this will apply to secondary schools only,” Mr Andrews said.
“We want students to be wearing a mask, and teachers should wear a mask where itís appropriate to do that.”
The government will work with schools to ensure they have access to face coverings.
When do I have to wear a face covering?
Face coverings are essential whenever you leave your family home, except in exceptional circumstances, such as for people with underlying health conditions. For advice related to specific conditions, contact DHHS.
That means they’re necessary at the shops, down the street, at the restaurant or pub while not sitting and a host of other settings. Colac residents had already donned masks in droves in the days before the Premier’s announcement.
The Premier said there would be a “common sense” approach to face masks – for example, they don’t need to be on in rural settings when people won’t have human interaction. But it’s best to have one handy in case you do pass another person by chance.
Could we see further lockdowns soon?
The Premier has said the State Government will use data to guide future decisions, and it believes these preventative measures will keep transmission numbers down in regional Victoria. But he said the state would not hesitate to act if data changed.
“At this stage, the advice is to take these steps and not go beyond it, where those hospitality businesses would close,” he said.
“Logic tells you that in those hotspots, no visits are important and masks across regional Victoria are important. What I’m being advised at the moment is exactly what we’ve done, no more, no less.”
Further information and advice on rules for Colac Otway are available at the DHHS website.