The COVID restrictions have eased and Melbournians can travel again. The long lockdown has been amongst the most successful in managing COVID in the world.
Daylesford is attractive and easy to get to and the town is bracing for major influx of visitors as Melbournians celebrate their freedoms. Only an hour and a half from the city and with fine weather forecast for the weekend, crowds are expected.
After months of anaemic business, retailers, cafes and restaurants are looking forward to making up some of their losses. That’s good for the owners, the staff and their families. More generally, it means more money spent locally in the community.
But with the increase in visitors comes concern about the risk of COVID being spread locally. After 14 days of zero community transmission the risk is low, but not completely gone.
Sensible risk management means wearing masks, social distancing, practicing hand hygiene and cleaning high touch points regularly. The Shire has worked with businesses to put COVID safe practices for Vincent Street in place.
To make it possible for people to maintain social distance, barriers have been put up so pedestrians can use spaces normally used for parking to pass one another and to allow cafes and restaurants to provide outdoor seating safely. The speed limit has been reduced to 20km/h.
The orange barriers in the street have attracted criticism partly for how they look, partly because parking has been taken away and partly because it reminds the community that Daylesford is likely to be crowded and the COVID risk will increase.
The Council is caught between a rock and hard place. On the one hand there are calls to close Vincent Street to traffic altogether and let outdoor dinning and entertainment flourish safely. On the other, there are those who don’t want anything to change.
Doing nothing would be irresponsible. If there are crowds it would make it impossible for people to socially distance as happened last time there were crowds in the middle of the year.
Closing down Vincent Street risks pushing parking into surrounding areas with disruptive traffic.
The orange barriers are half way option – an attempt to balance safety and commerce. If the half way solution doesn’t work, the Council has options to close down more or all of Vincent Street on weekends.