Stage one includes allowing retail stores, restaurants and cafes to open with up to 10 customers, and for travel within states. However, pubs and licensed venues, cinemas, museums, galleries and gaming venues would have to wait until stage two, expected in June.
With states to implement the road map at their behest, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he would announce Victoria’s changes on Monday.
“Next week, I’ll have more to say about what the rest of May looks like,” he said.
Government data shows that of Victoria’s 117 active COVID-19 cases, all are in Metropolitan Melbourne, aside from a handful on the city’s urban fringes and the east’s Wellington district.
Western Victoria, from Ballarat to the South Australian border, is coronavirus free. So, too, is the north of the state, above Wellington and the Macedon Ranges, and all the way east from the Yarra Ranges, apart from one case.
Horsham Business support group chair Graham Keay, owner of Clark Rubber in Horsham, said locals believed the approach to easing the lockdown should be different in regional centres.
“We had three cases very early in the piece … we don’t have any any more,” he said.
“It’s a different scenario here. We don’t have the amount of population and therefore you won’t have the amount of contact.”
Shepparton Chamber of Commerce president John Anderson said the town’s CBD had already become busier over the past week. He believes businesses such as pubs in regional areas should be allowed to open with social-distancing rules before metropolitan areas.
“We are far enough from a metropolitan area to be possibly considered differently, as long as those judgments are made responsibly,” Mr Anderson said.
Owners of Meredith’s Royal Hotel Claire and Damian Kelly say the closure of their pub West of Melbourne has strangled social activity in a town that had not recorded a single case of coronavirus.
Ms Kelly said her regional area “shouldn’t be put in the same basket” as metropolitan areas.
“It’s really upsetting for a town of this size, where it’s a lot of farmers and locals,” she said.
“It’s sad that we can’t be excluded. We’re not a hot zone, we’re not really in any danger that we can see, but we’re suffering horrendously [from the lockdown].”
However, Mildura Regional Development chief executive Brett Millington said statewide consistency was required because the area would rely on attracting visitors from the rest of Victoria as part of its economic revival.
“If your business plan is about attracting external visitors, then that is an increased risk of spreading the virus,” he said.
“We need to know there won’t be a danger to locals too, and consistent rules help with that.”
Geelong Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ben Flynn said he was happy with the state government’s “measured approach”.
But he said businesses needed more clarity about a broad plan for the next eight to 10 weeks.
“Any kind of clarity would be good for businesses to start planning,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the first stage of relaxing restrictions was predicted to boost Australia’s economy by $3 billion per month and restore 250,000 jobs. Stage two would restore $3 billion of monthly economic activity, with a further $3.3 billion returned in stage three, he said.
“States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.
Anthony is a sports and general news reporter at The Age.
Benjamin is a state political reporter