No longer off limits: Playgrounds to re-open as restrictions ease

In recent times, Melbourne children have looked at playgrounds in a different way than the view of carefree kids in the past.

Alphington mother Fiona Corbett says when her son Jasper, 6, passed taped-off play equipment in the park, he’d warn little brother Griffin, 2, that "That’s dirty. We can’t go there, it’s against the law because of the virus".

Jasper Rowlands, 6, set for some playground fun.Credit:Penny Stephens

While COVID-19 hasn’t left us, and parents are still conscious of cleaning little hands and social distancing, they’re happy that playgrounds in metropolitan Melbourne can reopen on Monday.

Playgrounds have been off limits for months, and so Ms Corbett says she’s happy her kids can return to slides, swings and monkey bars at five playgrounds within walking distance of their house.

Ms Corbett, who has a history of pneumonia and so has been advised by a doctor that the family is "high risk" health-wise, is concerned about transmission of COVID-19 but said the risk needed to be balanced with children’s needs.

When her children return from play, they will have a bath and their clothes go in the laundry, and she sprays sanitiser on their hands regularly, even when they’re out walking or cycling.

She says playgrounds teach more autonomous play and during school holidays, without zoom classes to take, they would provide structure to the day.

Ms Corbett deliberately hasn’t made a big deal of playgrounds re-opening on Monday.

"We now live in a world where rules change every few minutes so until it’s a done deal I don’t tend to tell them anything."

Apart from playgrounds, other changes to COVID-19 restrictions that will start from 11.59pm on Sunday include a one-hour reduction to metropolitan Melbourne’s daily curfew, which now starts at 9pm instead of 8pm.

Melbourne residents must still stay within five kilometres of home, except for permitted reasons such as work or education if these cannot be done at home.

Two people can still meet outside for exercise but that has been extended to recreation, and for a maximum of two hours instead of one. Libraries can resume click and collect services.

Singles or single parents can visit a nominated ‘bubble buddy’ provided the buddy is alone when the visit takes place.

Childcare and schools will continue in remote and flexible learning mode, with on-site supervision at schools for children of permitted workers.

Shopping for essentials is permitted for one person per household, once a day.

Restaurants and cafes will remain open for takeaway and delivery only and not sit-down service.

Metropolitan Melbourne may move to further easing of restrictions under the second step after September 28, provided we reach an average daily case rate of 30 to 50 cases over a 14-day period, with public health advice regarding transmission source.

Under changes to restrictions for regional Victoria, starting from 11.59pm on Sunday, there can now be public gatherings outdoors of up to five people from a maximum of two households, with infants aged under 12 months old not counted.

People who live alone or single parents with children under 18 can have one nominated person visit their home. Childcare in regional areas will be open to all children and in term 4 schools will re-open to all students, with safety measures.

Retail outlets in regional Victoria, including hairdressers, will open, with some restrictions on numbers. However restaurants and cafes are still open only for takeaway and delivery.

Premier Daniel Andrews said restrictions in regional Victoria could be eased further as soon as this week if case number targets for reaching the next step are met.

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