The minute restrictions eased, Melburnians flocked to Kmart to celebrate their newfound freedom. But video footage and images posted onto social media left some concerned the crowds could undermine the state’s efforts to keep the virus under control over the past few months.
Keen to exit the state’s hard lockdown after more than 12 weeks, Melburnians rushed to Kmart at precisely 11.59 when restrictions eased.
In the hours leading up to the loosening of restrictions, Kmart was trending on Twitter, with some proposing the 24-hour store was the perfect place to celebrate.
“In 2020 Melbourne - you need to book to go to Kmart. How amazing,” journalist Laura Jayes tweeted.
One person joked, “KMART and 'get on the beers' are trending. This is how Melbourne heals itself.”
“I thought I’d seen it all... and then I saw people on the news crying as they ran into Kmart at midnight,” another person claimed.
While some saw the funny side of Melburnians flocking to Kmart, many were concerned the large crowds could undo the hard work of Victorians to stifle the virus.
“Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Victoria...don’t go crazy and undo all our hard work,” comedian Magda Szubanski pleaded on Twitter.
“Bruh i know how amazing Kmart is but maaaaaan we’re gonna get wave 3 if y’all keep this up,” another person tweeted.
Anticipating the influx of shoppers, Kmart forced keen shoppers to register online to enter the store.
“We will open our doors on Wednesday 28th October, but for your safety, we will limit the number of customers allowed in a store at one time for stores located in Metro Melbourne,” Kmart said on its website.
“Our Social Q app is here to save you time and get you into store as quickly as possible during busy periods – either use the app before you leave home to save your spot in store, or if there’s a line when you get to store, use the app to save your spot without lining up."
Premier Daniel Andrews said the managing director of Wesfarmers -- the company which owns Kmart -- told him around 100,000 registered online to go to their outlets last night and this morning.
“I understand various people came up to stores at 12.01 this morning buying Halloween costumes and things of that nature, and other critically important things,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday.
The premier praised Kmart for implementing an online booking system that controlled the number of shoppers inside its stores.
“I'm pleased they are doing it in a safe way to best practice standards, probably exceeding any standards anywhere in the world,” he said.
“That pre-booking arrangement is a very innovative way of doing things.”
The reopening of retail and hospitality means 80,000 people will be back to work today, according to the premier.
Mr Andrews said it was “an achievement that every single Victorian should be proud of” but warned Victorians must stay COVID-safe.
“It is no small thing to have 80,000 people going back to work today,” he said.
“Many Melburnians want to get out and support local businesses and I want to remind everyone that the rules still apply and the rules are not against you, they are for you,” he continued.
Victoria recorded two new cases and two deaths overnight.
Of the deaths, Mr Andrews said they occurred "some weeks ago" and included a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s.