Swan Hill faces longer restrictions

SWAN Hill remains under the same set of strict restrictions as the rest of regional Victoria after Premier Daniel Andrews outlined his four-step plan to return to a "COVID-normal" life.

Swan Hill is one of 27 Local Government Areas in Victoria with zero active cases, but the State Government has continued to place it in the same bracket as major centres such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, meaning it will only see a slight easing of lockdown restrictions from next Sunday.

Under the "roadmap" out of restrictions announced by Mr Andrews on Sunday, regional Victoria will be a step ahead of metropolitan Melbourne, with more businesses allowed to open.

Schools will also return to onsite learning from Term 4 with safety measures.

From next Sunday, the rules for Swan Hill residents on the Victorian side of the border will be:

- Only leave home for four reasons: school or work (if these can not be done from home), care or caregiving, to purchase essentials, exercise;

- Public gatherings: up to five people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors for social interaction (infants under 12 months of age are not included in the cap);

- Visitors to the home: "Single person bubble" one nominated visitor if living alone/single parent (all children under 18);

- Childcare is open to all children;

- Schools return to onsite learning from Term 4 with safety measures;

- Outdoor exercise and recreation allowed;

- Restaurants and cafes open for takeaway and delivery only, and;

- Retail: open, with density and other restrictions, hairdressing open.

Regional Victoria will be able to move to the third step when:

- Daily average number of cases in the last 14 days in Regional Victoria is less than five;

- There are less than 0 cases in regional Victoria with an unknown source in the last 14 days.

The key points of the third step are:

- No restrictions on leaving home;

- Spend time with others outside where possible;

- Public gatherings: up to 10 people outdoors;

- Visitors allowed at home from one other household (up to five people);

- Schools return to onsite learning from Term 4 with safety measures;

- Hospitality open for predominately outdoor seated service only, and;

- All retail open, except personal care (hairdressers open).

The last step, subject to public health advice, can start after November 23 when: there are no new cases for 14 days, across Victoria.

The restrictions remain a lot tougher in metropolitan Melbourne.

Melburnians will be freed from the lockdown from October 26 if the average number of new cases falls below five and there are less than five unknown source cases.

"Essentially, each of these steps is less than we would like to do," Mr Andrews said.

"We would all like to open up as quickly as possible. We would all like to find that COVID normal or go back to actual normal as soon as possible.

"But that is not the nature of this virus. It is wicked in many ways."

The last step will come into effect from November 23, if Victoria goes 14 days with no new cases, allowing public gatherings of up to 50 people and 20 home visitors at a time.

All remaining restrictions will be removed when Victoria goes 28 days with no new cases.

Victorians were warned earlier on Sunday that daily coronavirus cases might not be low enough by mid-September, raising the prospect of more months under restrictions.

University of Melbourne modelling said based on current levels of social distancing, the 14-day case average was likely to be around 63 cases by September 17. On Friday, Victoria's 14-day case average was 116.

Restrictions could be "reimposed and last much longer" if there was a resurgence of cases.

"Keeping Stage 4 restrictions until case numbers are low enough to safely reopen will enable all Victorians to get back to COVID-normal, faster," the modelling said.

On Sunday, Victoria recorded 63 new cases and five more deaths