Over the past two weeks, we’ve tested more than 160,000 Victorians for coronavirus. I want to thank each and every one of them for playing their part in protecting our state.
The job isn’t done yet – and that size and scale of testing will continue to be a big part of our response in the weeks and months to come. But because of that initial data, we’ve been able to get a better understanding of the way the virus is moving through our community. And with it, greater insight into how we can respond.
Today – thanks to the efforts of Victorians – I can announce our cautious next steps.
As we have worked to flatten the curve, we’ve been telling Victorians there’s only four reasons to be out: shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise, and study or work – if you can’t do it from home.
From 11:59pm this Tuesday night, there’s now a fifth reason to leave home: visiting friends and family – with a maximum gathering of up to ten outdoors and having up to five visitors in your home.
I know this will come as a welcome relief, but I need to be clear. Although these are our first steps back towards normalcy – they are not an invitation to host a dinner party every night of the week.
It’s not about having a rotating roster of acquaintances and associates – or your third best friend from primary school – over for a visit. This is about seeing those you need to – if you need to.
We’re asking Victorians to limit their circle to just family and friends. That means that when we do have outbreaks and positive cases – and we will – we can test and trace and effectively contain the spread.
I want to be clear: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
For our family, that means I won’t see my Mum for a little while. She’s in her 70s – and she has a number of conditions that would put her at risk.
So, for now, we’re going to have to stay connected in different ways, with FaceTime calls, gifts in the mail or an old-fashioned letter. As hard as that is, no visit is worth putting her safety at risk. I’m asking all Victorians to think about these things when you’re making your own plans with the people you love.
We’re also able to make some changes to rules for some of the most significant gatherings in any of our lives: weddings will now be able to have ten guests and up to 20 people will be able to attend funerals held indoors and up to 30 if they’re outdoors.
More of the outdoor recreational activities that so many Victorians have been missing will also be allowed: walking groups, fishing, hiking – and yes, even a game of golf. These activities will be subject to physical distancing to help keep people safe.
These new restrictions and a renewed State of Emergency will be in place until 11:59pm on Sunday 31 May. As we go through this month, we’ll keep reviewing the situation and our case numbers – and hopefully, we’ll be able to make further announcements then.
But with more freedom comes more responsibility. I’m asking Victorians to use common sense – you should only spend time together if it’s safe. And you should only be undertaking these activities if you really need to. If it’s integral to your health and wellbeing.
Use your judgement. And think about the health of your fellow Victorians.
Because right now, staying apart is what’s keeping us together.
And none of us want to squander everything we’ve achieved. None of us want to have to take a backwards step.
And none of us want to be responsible for the loss of someone we love – or someone we’ve never met.
That means it’s up to all of us to make this work.
And it’s why our message has not changed: if you can stay at home – you must stay at home.