Eased lockdown restrictions in regional Victoria have been labelled a “sanity saver” by gym owners, and potentially life-saving by swimming instructors.
- Gyms, pools and drive-in cinemas are among the regional business that can reopen
- The divide between regional Victoria and greater Melbourne remains for at least another week
- Mount Buller is not included in the “border bubble” meaning some regional communities aren’t permitted to visit
But the changing restrictions have done little to help the plight of the state’s ski resorts, which are grappling with the impacts of not only losing all their business from Melbourne — but also trade from a number of regional communities not permitted to visit.
Mount Buller falls just outside the “border bubble” determined by the NSW government, restricting who can visit those mountains.
Mount Buller Communications Manager Rhylla Morgan said the complexity of the rules in each state was making the situation difficult for people to navigate.
It had hopes of being “regional Victoria’s mountain” this weekend but despite great conditions, Mount Buller is expected to be relatively quiet.
“The silver lining is that if you are able to travel and you’re in our local area, it does mean that it’s going to be a much quieter weekend,” she said.
Still more freedom than Melbourne
However country Victoria in general remains a step ahead of metropolitan Melbourne as the state government continues its fight to restrict a growing coronavirus outbreak.
For the first time in a fortnight, regional Victorians will be allowed to welcome visitors to their homes in limited numbers when restrictions ease on Friday.
Public gathering limits increase from a maximum of 10 people to 20, with the number of people allowed at food and drink venues jumping to 150.
Caps on the number of people allowed at religious gatherings, weddings and funerals will also ease, as will mask restrictions during beauty appointments.
Gyms, indoor sporting facilities, nightclubs and drive-in cinemas can also reopen this week, however travel into regional Victoria from greater Melbourne remains off-limits.
Eased restrictions make a splash
Jayson Lamb’s community swimming pools in south-west Victoria have been ominously quiet during lockdown.
The veteran swim instructor said the eased restrictions were a huge relief, not only to his students.
“You just feel for your staff, you know. They’re all casual so if they don’t work, they don’t get paid,” Mr Lamb said.
“It’s been insanely tough, especially for those with mortgages to pay and what have you.
The eased restrictions mean swimming lessons can resume in limited numbers, something of vital importance in regional seaside areas where populations explode each summer.
Mr Lamb said swimming lessons should be considered as important as general education during lockdown.
“There was factual evidence over last summer that there were more drownings than usual, and they’re putting that down to lockdown,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get some more kids back in the water and staying safe”.
‘It keeps them sane’
Gym junkies in metropolitan Melbourne will be jealously eyeing off their regional counterparts when regional fitness centres reopen on Friday.
At Warrnambool’s Iron Armour Gym, weights were being sanitised within minutes of the eased restrictions being announced.
“It keeps them sane, they’ve missed training and they’ve missed that outlet.”
Indoor gyms and sports centres can reopen for up to 50 people indoors in regional areas from Friday.
Heavy hits on and off the field
Bruising hits will return to the sporting field this weekend, however some regional clubs are worried their balance books will also end up bruised and battered.
Community sport can resume this weekend, however the number of people that can attend is limited to the minimum amount required to participate and facilitate the event, up to a maximum of 150 people.
Torquay Tigers Football Club president Jenny Wood said limits on spectator numbers potentially made it unviable for clubs to host games.
“150 people probably means we won’t be able to open any food and beverage options for people,” she said.
“That means there’s no revenue, and only 150 people through the gate is very little revenue as well.”
Ms Wood said the club was concerned about the economic benefit of opening gates again for sport.
“The senior men get paid so there’s a lot of money going out and not a lot coming in, so that’s probably not very viable for most clubs,” she said.
“Down here in Torquay we’re not exposed to it (coronavirus) as much, but we seem to still have the affects of the changes and restrictions all the time.”
No longer ‘Melbourne’s mountain’
Meanwhile, on Mount Buller, operators have spent the past few weeks refunding Melburnians who had to cancel bookings or change their plans as a result of lockdown.
Rhylla Morgan Morgan said the unknown wasn’t filling people with confidence.
“With all of this uncertainty, it’s making a lot of people nervous about making those bookings,” she said.
Additional reporting: Alice Walker, Laura Thompson