Stage four lockdown: What roadmap to reopening means for Melbourne commercial property

Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne. Picture: Highpoint.
Highpoint Shopping Centre in Melbourne. Picture: Highpoint.

Melbourne’s commercial property industry, tenants and landlords will continue to be impacted by COVID-19 restrictions for at least the next few months, as the Victorian Government revealed its plan for reopening the state.

While some of the current restrictions will be loosened slightly on September 13, it will be weeks and months before many Melbourne businesses, commercial property tenants and landlords begin to return to normal, with restrictions being eased in a multi-stage process over the coming months.

The government’s “roadmap for reopening” document lists “private inspections by appointment only” and “outdoor auctions subject to gathering limits” among permitted activities under the fourth stage in easing COVID-19 restrictions.

But this stage will only occur once Victoria reaches an average daily case rate of fewer than five cases statewide over the previous 14 days, and there are fewer than five cases with an unknown source statewide in the last 14 days. Regardless of case numbers, it will not be enacted before October 26.

The last step on the roadmap — to apply from November 23 and only if the state has no new cases for two weeks — will allow real estate to operate with “safety measures and record keeping”.

The news has the real estate industry reeling, with on-site inspections still months away and online-only auctions hampering the industry’s ability to conduct business.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan previously told the Herald Sun it would be “extremely disappointing to see the industry remain on online inspections” for several more weeks.

“It’s continuing to hurt consumers, the industry, and revenue to the government,” Ms Calnan said.

Timeline: When can my business operate as stage four lockdowns ease?

The REIV had recommended on-site auctions and inspections be allowed this month — with COVID-safe controls in place — as an early stop on the government’s “reopening road map”.

Under the roadmap, childcare will be one of the first industries and commercial property asset classes to begin to reopen further.

Hospitality will need to wait longer, however, with outdoor dining potential able to resume from October 26 if case numbers allow, while indoor dining will not return before November 23.

Here are the stages identified in the State Government’s roadmap and what they mean for you.

First stage

Under the roadmap announced on Sunday, the stage four restrictions currently in place across metropolitan Melbourne will be extended for at least another two weeks beyond the original September 13 end date.

However, from September 13 some of the lockdown rules will be eased, with the current 8pm curfew extended to 9pm, playgrounds to open, social bubbles to be created and two people or a household will be able to gather outside for two hours, up from the current one hour.

Second stage

Melbourne will move to the next stage only once the average daily case rate is between 30-50 over the previous 14 days, and no earlier than September 28.

As part of this step, childcare will reopen, some workplaces will return, schools will begin a staged return for prep to Year 2 and senior school/special schools, pools will reopen, outdoor religious gatherings will be allowed for five people and a faith leader, while gatherings of five people from two households will also be permitted.

South Granville childcare

Childcare will reopen further under the second stage of the Victorian Government’s plan.

Third stage

The next stage will not happen before October 26, and will only occur once Victoria reaches an average daily case rate of fewer than five cases statewide over the previous 14 days, and there are fewer than five cases with an unknown source statewide in the last 14 days.

At this point people will not be restricted in leaving home, retail and hairdressers will reopen, outdoor public gatherings can increase to 10 people, all schoolchildren will begin a phased return, hospitality can resume outdoor dining and non-contact outdoor sport will return.

Fourth stage

Victoria will move to the next stage on November 23, and only if there have been no new cases for 14 days.

This milestone will be important for commercial property, as real estate will be able to resume normal activities. Outdoor gatherings will also increase to 50 people, retail will return in full, hospitality can resume indoor dining for 20 people with venues capped at 50 in total, restrictions on sport will ease and weddings and funerals will return for up to 50 people.

“COVID Normal”

A final stage will be put in place once there are no new cases for 28 days and no major outbreaks in other states and territories.

Most restrictions will be removed and the majority of Victorians will be able to return to work. There is no date set for this stage.

– with Samantha Landy