“Even though having Isabella has given us the happiest time of life, we’re absolutely looking forward to farewelling 2020. We’re hopeful 2021 will see our lives return to normal.”

The Gargiso’s are among thousands flocking to beaches and holiday homes along the Mornington Peninsula this New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to 2020.

Hallam dive shop owner Corry Allen (green top), from Dive Gear Australia, at Rye beach with friends.

Hallam dive shop owner Corry Allen (green top), from Dive Gear Australia, at Rye beach with friends.Credit:Luis Ascui

Traffic snarls kilometres long awaited those desperate to get out of the city for a taste of the coastal life with Point Nepean Road – the main stretch into places including Rye, Rosebud, Blairgowrie and Sorrento – left resembling a car park for much of Thursday.

Hallam dive shop owner Corry Allen, from Dive Gear Australia, arrived at Rye beach armed with a deckchair and a dozen close friends after what he says was his most difficult year yet.

His business was forced to close for most of 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions and he and most of his friends were unable to take to the water due to stay-at-home restrictions.

To send off the year they’re planning a midnight dive in the water off Rye.

“There’s barbecues, friends and diving. Why wouldn’t you want to be here,” Mr Allen said.

“The shop, we’re open seven days a week now just in case we get closed again.

“I’m worried about a third wave though as we get closer to winter.”

Eskies and beach umbrellas were in hot demand along the peninsula on Thursday with the smell of sizzling snags filling the air.

Friends Alex Bell and Lucas Town, 13.

Friends Alex Bell and Lucas Town, 13.Credit:Luis Ascui

Friends Alex Bell, 13, of Blackburn and Lucas Town, 13, of Nunawading, spent the day jumping off Rye pier and said they were hoping 2021 would see a return to normal life after spending most of 2020 learning from home.

“We were stuck in online learning all year and only returned during the last term. I hope we get to stay in class all of this year,” Alex said.

Many Victorians were left scrambling to find new plans for New Year’s Eve after the state government slashed private gathering limits from 30 to 15 people at the last minute after three new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Thursday morning. Another two additional cases were announced on Thurdsday afternoon.

Clementine Docherty, from Hampton Park, said she was planning a relaxed day in the sun before joining family and friends for a quiet gathering.

A father and son enjoy the warm weather in the water off Rye on New Year’s Eve.

A father and son enjoy the warm weather in the water off Rye on New Year’s Eve.Credit:Luis Ascui

“We apologise for the late notice but this virus doesn’t respect New Year’s Eve,” Health Minister Martin Foley said.

“We know this will disrupt a whole heap of plans right across the state.”

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Mr Foley said the Victorian cases had all been traced back to NSW after they “leaked out somewhere”, but acknowledged the positive cases came at the worst possible moment, when many people were moving across states and regions – more than at any other time of the year.

He ruled out any further lockdown measures for the state in the immediate future and said the Health Department was confident they’d identified all close contacts with more than 50 people in self isolation.

“My message to anyone thinking of either hosting or attending any [illegal] formal gatherings, do not. You will be caught,” Mr Foley said.

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