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‘Huge’: Relief as office workers return to their desks without masks

“We’ve all been told that with the 75 per cent capacity, everybody should come back to work on Monday.

“It will be bizarre because we’ve been able to almost have a dance party in the office because there’s been nobody there.”

Fiona Athersmith, 57, was excited to no longer have to wear a mask at the office.

Fiona Athersmith, 57, was excited to no longer have to wear a mask at the office. Credit:Joe Armao

Corporate finance worker Heidi Cole, 22, felt good about not having to wear a mask and said they were probably unnecessary when social distancing measures were in place.

“It’s a huge thing about stopping people coming into the office,” she said.

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Accountant Shane Macedo, 30, returned to the office on Thursday after some time working from home.

“I think it will pick up over the coming weeks as people get more comfortable to get back in,” he said.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley was asked to clarify during Friday’s COVID update whether not having to wear masks in offices meant not having to wear them in the lobby, the lift, and the break room.

“Apply the rule of common sense,” Mr Foley said.

“The sensible position is that if you are in a public-facing position, you need to wear a mask.

“If you are in a position where it’s QR-coded and you don’t have that public in the face, then you don’t have to wear a mask.”

Mr Foley said businesses had their own COVID-safe plans that accounted for individual circumstances, and he was confident that the entire Australian community knew how to apply “this common sense arrangement”.

The easing of restrictions also means crowds will be able to watch AFL matches in Melbourne this weekend with up to 40,000 spectators allowed, and it brings the city into line with regional Victoria.

Some theatres are also now allowed to operate at 75 per cent of their capacity with up to 2000 people. Hospitality venues, creative studios, community facilities and gyms can now abide by density limits of one person for every two square metres, rather than one person every four.

Victorians must still wear their masks in indoor, public-facing areas, and carry them at all times.

The state recorded no new local coronavirus cases for the ninth consecutive day on Thursday, and one new case in hotel quarantine. There were 25,590 test results processed and 15,665 people received a COVID vaccine at midnight.

But as restrictions eased further in Victoria on Friday, the state’s health authorities are still considering shutting the border to travellers from all of NSW.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced NSW will further tighten gathering restrictions and foreshadowed a possible further extension of Greater Sydney’s lockdown after the state recorded another 44 new local COVID-19 cases.

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Of the new locally acquired cases announced on Friday, 35 are linked to a known case or cluster – 25 are household contacts and 10 are close contacts – and the source of infection for 9 cases remains under investigation.

Mr Foley said on Thursday that his government was growing increasingly concerned about the potential for the virus to leak from Sydney into regional NSW.

“We’re concerned that the situation is clearly not heading in the direction that all Australians want NSW to be. The risk grows, and the threat grows,” Mr Foley said.

“Having worked so hard to get to this level that we had in Victoria, we do not need Victorians entering and coming back from NSW, so please do not travel to NSW from Victoria.”

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