Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley has confirmed that his state will repeal a raft of remaining COVID restrictions, bringing the state that much closer to pre-pandemic level health measures.
Earlier in the week, both NSW and Victoria made headlines for their announcement of the repeal of close contact rules, which mean people who live with or have spent significant time with someone who has the virus will no longer need to isolate.
Those rules come into effect in Victoria at 11:59pm on Friday, April 22.
However, those changes are not the only thing that is happening in Victoria at that time.
Victoria’s New COVID Rules
From tomorrow night:
- QR codes will be scrapped in hospitality and retail venues. Patrons will no longer need to check-in or show their vaccination status.
- Unvaccinated people will be allowed into hospitality and retail venues.
- Mask will no longer be required in most settings except for on public transport, at airports, in rideshare transport like Ubers, and at hospitals and care facilities.
- Close contacts will no longer need to isolate for seven days. They will have to wear a mask in indoor settings, take five rapid antigen tests across a week, and avoid sensitive areas like hospitals.
- International travellers will no longer need to have a COVID test on arrival and unvaccinated travellers will no longer need to quarantine.
- Those who have had COVID will be exempt from testing and quarantine requirements for 12 weeks post-infection. This is up from the previous eight weeks.
Is It Safe to Bring Restrictions Down?
The Victorian government has said that they are working with health advice when implementing these new policies.
Foley has said that the modelling indicates Victoria is past the peak of the latest Omicron wave but is expecting that case numbers will steadily decline over the next few months.
However, some epidemiologists are warning that the pulling back of restrictions is premature and sends the wrong signal.
Professor Mike Toole of the Burnet Insitute told The Guardian: “I don’t think it’s been thought through particularly carefully. I don’t think there’s a clear strategy. I don’t know what our objectives are anymore.”
“The message that it sends on Friday is basically that it’s all over, the pandemic is in the past tense. And it’s clearly not. Anyone who looks at the numbers knows it’s not in the past. How can you say we’re entering a new phase of the pandemic when we reported 50,966 new cases [on Wednesday]?” he said.
“People are still living in the belief that Australia somehow avoided the worst of the pandemic, they don’t seem to mind the fact that more than 4,000 people have died from Covid in less than four months this year. That’s twice as many as the combined number of deaths in 2020 and 2021.”
Others have said that the measures may be reasonable, however, they are likely to prolong the impact of COVID, particularly as we head into winter.
Victoria has said that it will not repeal the controversial vaccine mandates for key workers. Those in healthcare, education, office work, construction, hospitality and other industries will still need two or three doses of a COVID vaccine in order to come to work.
Authorities have said they will look to repeal these rules at the earliest possible time.