Masks, social distancing important as ever

Image: Saturday morning shoppers at Gleadell Street market, Richmond

As Melbourne takes a significant step forward out of lockdown with the imminent easing of COVID-19 restrictions, Burnet Institute’s Professor Mike Toole AM is confident the community will continue to observe two fundamental ongoing public health requirements – the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks.

From 11.59pm on Tuesday 27 October in metropolitan Melbourne:

  • the 25km movement limit will be lifted;
  • restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars will have an indoor maximum of 40 patrons with 10 per space, and up to 70 outdoors with one per two square metres;
  • gyms and fitness studios will be allowed one client per eight square metres to a maximum of 20 clients;
  • funerals and faith gatherings will be permitted a maximum of 20 attendees indoors and 50 outdoors;
  • up to 20 people will be allowed for indoor pools; and
  • non-contact community sports will be permitted indoors for teenagers 18 and younger

Earlier on Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews flagged that mask wearing was a necessary trade-off and likely to continue into 2021.

“We have to be careful not to send a message that it is all over because that will lead to a decrease in adherence to the public health directives, and there’s a huge difference between 80 percent of adherence to physical distancing and 70 per cent,” Professor Toole told ABC Radio’s PM program.

“Eighty percent pushes the cases down, 70 percent allows it to get out of control, so we’ve got to ensure at least 80 percent are adhering to those precautions, and that’s going to be a big challenge when retail opens.”

Professor Toole told ABC Television News Channel that Victoria’s emergence from a second wave of the pandemic has been achieved in only two other countries globally – Vietnam and Hong Kong.

“They’ve succeeded because of the very high level of listening to and obeying public directives and, of course, mask-wearing, which is a culture in those countries, very effective contact tracing and localised restrictions,” Professor Toole said.

“A lockdown is not an all-or-nothing option, but you do need those conditions to not have a lockdown.

“Other countries will be looking our way and we will be the envy of the world as we enter a summer of extremely low community transmission, but we still have to be very vigilant.”

Victorians’ sacrifice during lockdown has left Australia well placed to sustain very low numbers of cases this summer. Only Vietnam & Hong Kong had comparable success in quashing the 2nd wave of #COVID19. @profmiketoole in @ConversationEDU @amapresident https://t.co/5ScpPsMMqU

– Burnet Institute (@BurnetInstitute) October 26, 2020

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