There are hopes Melbourne pubs will reopen earlier than expected after Victoria’s daily COVID-19 tally dipped to 11 new cases overnight.
It’s the lowest 24-hour increase since June 16 and brings Melbourne’s rolling 14-day average to 34.4.
Metropolitan Melbourne must reach an average daily case rate of 30-50 cases over the preceding fortnight to trigger an easing of lockdown measures from September 28.
Under the current road map, Melbourne venues will not be allowed to offer outdoor dining until after October 26. However, there is speculation this could happen two weeks earlier if case numbers stay low.
Epidemiologists predict Victoria’s 14-day average will dip below five cases a day within a fortnight.
Basic modelling carried out by the government’s modelling expert, Professor Tony Blakely at Melbourne University, shows daily cases could fall to 10 and the two-week average to 20 by September 28.
“We are on a good track if the recent past predicts the near future,” he told the Herald Sun.
“If we are aiming for tight suppression, which I am led to believe we are, and it is consistent with opening up borders and a hot spot strategy, then there is a case for considering opening up to step three earlier than October 26.”
Yesterday, Premier Daniel Andrews said he’d “never ruled out” easing restrictions earlier.
“We will always be guided by those three things: the evidence and the science, the data and what is deemed safe,” the Premier said.
“We are on schedule. We may even be a bit ahead of schedule, but we’ve got to keep going.”
Too late for some Melbourne pubs
Last week, three Melbourne pubs made the tough announcement that they couldn’t stay in business any longer.
The Hawthorn Hotel in Melbourne’s east announced on Facebook on Friday: “We have made the difficult decision to bid farewell to the Hawthorn Hotel as we hand the venue back to the landlord this month.
“Many of our regulars will have fond memories of late nights and busy dancefloors at The Hawka. It is difficult for us to see when we might be able to offer this experience to people again under the new COVID-normal.
“Thank you to everyone who helped us to create so many fun memories over the past few years. We will miss you.”
Two pubs in Melbourne’s west also announced they would be closing permanently. Both the Mona Castle in Seddon and the Morning Star in Williamstown have made the tough decision, saying the financial impact is too great.
“It is with heavy hearts that we advise that we will not be reopening the Morning Star post this lockdown, the financial impact is simply too great,” the owners said. “We thank the patrons, staff and local community with all of our hearts.”
Earlier this month, the Australian Hotels Association said Melbourne pubs faced “going over a cliff” under the extension to stage 4 restrictions.
“We are on the verge of becoming a ‘welfare state’ if our members are any indication as to the impact that lockdown restrictions are having on us,” association president David Canny (above) said.
“Each pub has a limit of just how much debt it can take before decisions are made to close the business for good.
“This is the cliff we are now facing. Local pubs are on the debt cliff and will never recover if they cannot reopen soon.
“We could lose the iconic corner pub because of the debt the Victorian Government restrictions have put on them.”
Andy Mullins, who owns nine venues in Melbourne including Hotel Esplanade (pictured main) and Garden State Hotel, told news.com.au last week: “Melbourne is a city made of laneways, of music, arts, cafes, wine bars and pubs. The heartbeat and lungs of this place is fuelled by its culture, and that culture needs support. Its own lifeline. Right now.
“It’s not about profits. It’s a tight enough game as it is. So many owners just merely survive. Right now, in Victoria, we are down 100% in trade. We have staff leaving the industry in droves.
“It’s been six months, and in the current timelines, it could be nine months to a year. Who else could withstand that? But we stay in the game because we truly, truly love it. We love this city. But it’s on its knees. We are begging and pleading for help. We can’t be shut down for any longer. The city will be changed, forever.”
The latest Bastion Insights report shows more than half of Victorians believe indoor dining at cafes and pubs could go ahead with appropriate social distancing measures.