Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has reassured Melburnians they won’t have to wait until 2021 for regional interstate travel.
The so-called “ring of steel” that separates metropolitan Melbourne from regional Victoria remains in place despite virus-curbing rules easing in the city from Sunday night.
Mr Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison want that border and others opened before Christmas, but the premier has yet to commit to a date.
Shepparton and Kilmore have been mopping up outbreaks in recent weeks after a COVID-positive truck driver from Melbourne stopped in the regional centres.
Even as COVID-19 case numbers narrow, the premier said border feedback from regional Victorians was clear.
“They don’t want a situation where that’s put at risk by people making trips to into regional Victoria that aren’t absolutely necessary,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Monday.
“They’ll come a time when you can have that discretionary trip – see family, see friends … go and spent money in wonderful tourist locations – but that isn’t yet.”
It came as the premier conceded New Zealanders are free to enter Victoria despite the state not signing up to be a part of the trans-Tasman bubble.
About 65 Kiwis have travelled from Sydney on to Melbourne since the arrangement began on Friday, with more expected to arrive on Monday.
Mr Andrews maintains the federal government did not inform him New Zealanders were entitled to travel beyond participating states and territories.
He said the Department of Health and Human Services’ website was updated on Sunday night to reflect the situation.
People living in Melbourne can now travel 25km from home and they have greater freedom when it comes to social activities and exercise.
Hairdressers and other industries can also operate for the first time in months.
Retail and hospitality will have to wait until November 2 before they can reopen, but Mr Andrews said the date could be brought forward if case numbers remained low.
The premier hit back at federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, accusing him of politicking after suggesting the state government had “callous indifference” to small businesses.
Victoria recorded four new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the city’s 14-day rolling average down to 7.2.
A further death took the state’s death toll to 817 and the national figure to 905.