“We’ve done such an incredible job as a state and sacrificed so much to get here, which is why we need to remain vigilant – not risk undoing it all,” he said.
“Victorians who flout the rules are not only putting themselves at risk but their loved ones and our entire community.”
Crowds were building throughout the day at St Kilda as many embraced temperatures topping 30 degrees for the first time after months of COVID-19 restrictions, which temporarily outlawed sunbathing.
Port Phillip Council called in private security to help local law officers monitor social distancing and other restrictions.
Hundreds of beach-goers defied alcohol bans and compulsory mask rules along the St Kilda foreshore as the Melbourne Cup was run and the festivities kicked on into the evening.
Young couple Danilo and Lily Paolella said they weren’t too fazed by lax attitudes towards masks.
“It’s a hot day and I’m really impressed with how everyone’s staying inside of the circles in their bubbles, distancing from each other, everyone’s pretty calm as well,” said Ms Paolella.
Mr Paolella predicted it would be a difficult task to enforce mask wearing at outdoor places such as beaches with the increasing hot weather.
“I think it’s pretty hard [to enforce] masks with this heat … but I think as long as everyone respects the social distancing, I think it’s fine.”
St Kilda Botanical Gardens sounded like a makeshift nightclub as the sun began to set and drinks continued to flow.
Matt Wilkins, 22, from McKinnon, brought his DJ decks, powered by a solar panel, to provide the backdrop to his mates’ Cup Day picnic.
“To an extent, we want to entertain some others too,” he said.
Pre COVID-19, Mr Wilkins was regularly DJing at venues as a side gig. This impromptu gig was his first playing for other people since March.
“It wasn’t my main source of income, but it was definitely my main source of enjoyment,” he said.
Mr Wilkins said he believed the impromptu park dance party would be a common sight this summer.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” he said. “It’s not like it used to be. No one came to the parks like this, we’d all just go to bars and stuff.”
Victoria Police started Summer Safe operations this weekend, which involve an increased police presence across Victorian beaches.
A police spokeswoman said officers would remain at St Kilda Beach as long as there were crowds. Anyone planning on leaving home must adhere to the Chief Health Officer’s coronavirus regulations.
“Police will not allow anyone to engage in criminal or disruptive behaviour, particularly those that have a negative impact on the rest of the community,” a police statement said.
Last month, Associate Professor Euan Tovey, a respiratory virus researcher at the University of Sydney, said there was little support for fears about transmission at the beach.
While Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said the state will eventually transition away from mandatory mask wearing in all settings to just using them in high-risk settings, Premier Daniel Andrews has said he has no plans to change or relax rules around mask wearing ahead of the metro regional boundary lifting planned for November 8.
The number of active coronavirus cases in Victoria is the lowest it has been since the start of the pandemic, with the state recording no new cases or deaths on Tuesday for the fourth consecutive day.
Professor Sutton said on Sunday that low case numbers did not remove the need for masks.
“Clearly, if there is no transmission at all, masks are not a requirement,” he said. “What we shouldn’t be complacent about is thinking that if we have a few days without cases that there is never a requirement for masks.”
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Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.
Erin covers crime for The Age. Most recently she was a police reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.