Further restrictions flagged

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged tighter restrictions after the state recorded a further 627 new cases and eight new deaths on Friday.

Mr Andrews said he spoke with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday night and the prospect of further restrictions was discussed, especially as the numbers now reflect the situation under the current stage three lockdown order.

Mr Andrews said that while he would not announce any further restrictions today, he may have to announce “further steps” or restrictions after a full analysis of the first 21 days of data from Melbourne’s stage three lockdown.

“That analysis, that thoughtful, careful, very considered and really important work will happen today, tomorrow, and then we will have more to say,” Mr Andrews said.

“I have got no announcements to make about next steps but it is important to acknowledge that these numbers are too high.

“We could not open up with these numbers, we could not open up with even half these numbers. It may well be the case … that we need to take further steps, that the steps we have taken are not enough to pull things up.

“The data will tell us, the experts will tell us, what if any next steps need to be taken.”

Mr Andrews acknowledged that there were people who would like to see further restrictions announced right away, but said he would continue to be guided by the best public health advice.

“They will be made in good time but I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that there are a whole range of potential next steps that will come at a very significant cost and I mean that in all of its senses,” Mr Andrews said.

“A well-considered process is always better than one that isn’t.”

Victoria’s chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said while the numbers were still “dispiriting” the stage three restrictions had still had an impact, driving the R-number (the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to) from 1.75 at the start of the lockdown down to one.

Prof. Sutton said one of the options being examined was a move to stage four restrictions, which would be similar to the successful New Zealand lockdown.

“Obviously, a step up in restrictions is a really significant measure but we are wanting it to be informed by evidence to the fullest extent possible, against that point of being proportionate,” Prof. Sutton said. 

“There are really significant consequences for what you do, in terms of increased restrictions. It has to be focused on what the data tells us about where transmission might be occurring.

“It may be the case that an intervention in a certain area will make a difference. It may also be the case that we look at restrictions in an area that is not a driver of transmission and that would be an unfortunate impost and unfortunate consequences for everyone who might be involved there.

“We are balancing harms, the harms of what increased cases over time would be, and the unfolding aged care tragedy that we have right now and all of the other consequences that happen when you have got increased restrictions,” Prof. Sutton said.

“We absolutely have to get the cases down because if we don’t do that, there will be ongoing consequences for everyone into the future. But we’re totally mindful of those broader impacts.”

A lot of the Victorian data is increasingly pointing towards workplace transmission and many people believe the next steps may require the closing of some workplaces, including places with high records of transmission such as meatworks.

Mr Andrews said there were a lot of options on the table with regard to potential next steps.

“Next steps will be as much about mystery cases out in the community, as they will be about outbreaks in large workplaces,” Mr Andrews said.

“You can have meatworks well in hand, you can have all the processes that we’ve got in place, but if numbers are still growing and you have got a sense and the data is starting to tell you that there may be more community transmission that’s unrelated to those work places, they are still less of a problem but dealing with that may need a broader set of policies and may need us to take further steps.”

NSW recorded a surge of up to 21 new cases, with only two of those found in hotel quarantine.

Queensland has recorded one new case that has been traced back to the two new cases recorded on Thursday.

Do you expect Victoria to announce further restrictions over the weekend? What do you think they should be?

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Written by Ben

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