Haircuts and golf as virus curbs ease in Melbourne

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Melbourne (AFP)

Residents of Australia’s second-biggest city dashed back to salons and golf courses Monday, as some of its three-month-old stay-at-home restrictions were further eased on falling infection rates.

Melbourne’s five million people had been barred from leaving their homes with a few exceptions — including shopping for essentials, exercising, or going to work, and later to socialise outdoors in small groups.

They still face a litany of travel restrictions and tough-to-remember rules for even the most mundane activities, but will now be able to get a much-needed haircut and do more outdoor socially distanced activities.

“As soon as we got the green light, the phone started going bananas,” hair salon owner Joey Scandizzo told public broadcaster ABC.

“Everyone is happy the salon is full,” he said. “We’re just so excited to be back.”

Salon owners still have to contend with restrictions on the number of people allowed on the premises at one time, meaning those eager to correct self-inflicted dye jobs or improvised trims could face a long wait.

“We just want to make Melbourne look beautiful again,” said Scandizzo.

Golfers can also tee it up again, although they will have to go around in groups of two and, according to Golf Australia, “masks must still be worn when playing”.

“It’s a great sight… GOLFERS ON COURSE!” Green Acres Golf Club tweeted.

Many restrictions are still in place in the city. Masks are mandatory, restaurants are limited to takeaways and deliveries, non-essential shops have to remain closed and there is a ban on travel outside the greater Melbourne area or more than 25 kilometres (16 miles) from home.

Melbourne’s second batch of stay-at-home restrictions began in July, when the state of Victoria was seeing around 190 new cases a day, rising to 700 in August.

On Monday, Victoria recorded just four new cases.

But not everyone was happy with the limited easing, including Australia’s conservative treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who criticised the regional authorities for not going further.

“It’s time for small businesses to reopen” he said, accusing Victoria’s centre-left government of “callous indifference” to the loss of jobs.

Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews — who is on a run of more than 100 daily televised briefings in a row — hit back.

“It’s all about the politics with this bloke, isn’t it. That’s all he does,” Andrews said. “All he does is play politics every day.”

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