Victoria proves why we shouldn’t ease restrictions, says AMA

New cases in Victoria are a “stark reminder” that the pandemic is not yet over.

young child reading a playground closed sign

Australian GPs have called on states and territories to rethink easing COVID-19 restrictions, quoting Victoria’s spike in infections as an example of what can go wrong if basic guidelines are flouted.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says similar outbreaks could easily occur if states and territories continue to lift restrictions before Victoria re-flattens the curve.

AMA president Tony Bartone said the new cases revealed in Victoria over the weekend are a “stark reminder” that the pandemic is not yet over.

“These new outbreaks send a strong signal that the other states should rethink the pace of easing of their COVID-19 restrictions until community transmission in Melbourne is under control to avoid the risk of a similar situation playing out in their own communities,” he said.

“Before rushing back to the pub, the footy crowds, or the big weddings and parties, Australia should pause and play it safe until the Melbourne hotspots are back under control.”

His comments follow further dramatic lockdowns that took place in Melbourne over the weekend. A spike in cases in two public housing towers led to ‘hard lockdown’ in nine public housing towers, without notice and under police guard.

More than 3000 residents of public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne cannot leave their apartments for any reason for at least five days.

The Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) said that while the lockdown of this at-risk group of people was a public health decision, given the vulnerability of many of the residents, having police coordinate and enforce the lockdowns may not have been the best idea.

“If we get this wrong, the consequences will be horrific,” said VCOSS chief Emma King.

“Last night looked a bit like a crime scene,” she said, adding that it would have been far better to have nurses, social services and community members lead the response.

Of the 94 new COVID-19 cases announced across the country on Sunday, Victoria accounted for 74. All the positive infections outside Victoria were returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos says Victoria’s spike may be traced to a single ‘super spreader’.

The minister received a briefing about a genomic sequencing report last week that suggested a single source of infection for many of the cases across the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne.

“It appears to be even potentially a super spreader who has caused this upsurge in cases,” she said.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, and as [Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton] explained the other day, not all of these cases have yet been subject to genomic sequencing. We need to enable that process to be completed and to be provided to the judicial inquiry in the fullness of time.”

Victoria has now locked down 12 postcodes, with residents only able to leave for the essentials such as food, exercise, work and for care-giving purposes.

Premier Daniel Andrews says more “big numbers” are likely over the coming days, as widespread testing is carried out across the state. He also would not rule out further postcodes being locked down, if cases worsen in particular areas relative to their population size.

Dr Bartone said the problems in Melbourne’s hotspots were linked to failures to follow “established and successful” public health guidelines.

“Against the expert medical advice, we have seen a range of failures relating to family and social events not following physical distance requirements, numerous quarantine breaches, and the irresponsible actions from elite sportsmen,” he said.

“We all can and must do better. Australians should not rush back to pre-COVID ways. We have to do more to protect ourselves and each other. The virus will be with us for many months. We must all continue to follow physical distance and hygiene protections, and not become complacent.”

While other states are lifting restrictions, Victoria remains in code red, and is almost considered somewhat of a pariah by other states.

Acting chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said individual states and territories had the right to refuse entry to Victorians, and he could “see why” Victorians were being told not to come to other parts of the country.

“If you look at where particular states are with the reopening of the economy and society … I can see why they would want to keep the virus out in any way they can,” he said.

Victorians in coronavirus hotspots who cross the border into NSW risk $11,000 fines and six months in jail.

Queensland has opened to all states except Victoria and South Australia’s border also remains closed to Victorians.

The national Cabinet had previously agreed that, by July, capacity limits in venues across the country would no longer apply and would only follow the rule that there must be four square metres of space per person.

In light of Victoria’s recent spike in numbers, it is possible that decision could be reviewed.

Melbourne’s worrying outbreak adds to the world’s woes as it reached 10 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 500,000 deaths, according to a Lancet editorial.

The Lancet editor, Dr Richard Horton, said the world’s political leaders had been tested on the coronavirus and “been found wanting”.

“It’s hard to recall a more lamentable response to a global emergency,” he said.

Do you think Dr Horton’s assessment is harsh or fair? Should the government review its decision to shelve capacity restrictions in pubs and cafés?

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    6th Jul 2020
    Victorias problem was a result of incompetence and no one over seeing the incompetence, what is needed is a release of some restrictions, and absolute laws legislated, with heavy heavy fines for people when out, who do not social distancing and hand wash and mask wearing when appropriate, sorry sounds over the top . NO, it is a war we have with COVID!
    We have to force the win!
    Horace Cope
    6th Jul 2020
    The Victorian Premier has been talking tough throughout the pandemic but it appears that they have been empty words. The resurfacing of the virus can be traced to a number of mistakes by the Victorian Government. allowing a protest march, allowing 30% of people quarantined to leave quarantine without testing, refusing to accept assistance from the ADF and in its place hiring untrained security guards provided by companies which, it has been shown, have rorted the system. Some security companies have not been giving adequate training, hiring people who have difficulty with the English language and using one person instead of the three required under the contract. People travelling interstate from Victoria have been allowed to travel without any health checks in place prior to boarding.

    I can't agree that the restrictions for all states and territories should be re-imposed because of the failure of the Victorian Government. This is a double problem, health and economical, and the sooner that the economy starts to move, the quicker that employment starts to return to some sort of normality. Australia has fared quite well in relation to the rest of the world and this has been due in part to the actions of health authorities advising governments which have implemented most of the recommendations.
    6th Jul 2020
    Totally agree with your summation of the current situation. Despite some negativity being blanketed over the entire various Governments by some people on this site. Nothing is perfect, it’s a situation that we as humans have not had to encounter. Australia has done brilliantly compared to the rest of the world. People also have to take responsibility for their own behaviour.
    6th Jul 2020
    Three months on from the first lockdowns, and what have the state governments and health officials done in that time? Nothing. They can't seem to understand that the genie is now out of the bottle, and the virus, like influenza, is going to be with us whether we like it or not. There is information circulating around the world about ways of reducing susceptibility and treating patients more successfully, but like the proverbial ostrich, these people have their heads stuck well and truly in the sand. As with the Emperor's New Clothes, they only see what they want to see, and what they see is causing death and financial disaster. The politicians are hiding behind the medical profession, and the medics have no qualifications in how to manage a State or an economy. They go round in circles from infection to lockdown to easing and then back to infections, lockdown, easing, ad infinitum. They have no solutions, refuse to consider what others are doing, and wait for a vaccine which may never come. Talk about the blind leading the blind! If they cannot learn how to manage the situation without resorting to gulag behaviour, then the country is well and truly doomed.
    8th Jul 2020
    The problem is when you take action to prevent something and you are sucessful, nothing happens! That's the whole point.

    Australia took action early that was ridiculed round the world at the time yet subsequently turned out to be the right thing to do evidenced by the low infection in the country. Point to any other country that handled it better that did not have to resort to a few steps back when infection rates rose. Singapore, South Korea, Sweden - all had to do just that. This is the way things are going to be if people do not maintain adherence to health advice well into the future.
    6th Jul 2020
    Pre-virus behaviour is rampant while school holidays are on. I live on the Sunshine Coast, and yesterday there were so many people crammed into a shop when I was waiting to be served, that I almost passed out trying to keep social distancing. It was quite a scary experience. It seems as if visitors think they can come here and abandon respect for personal boundaries. I don't know what the answer is. I should not have to hide in my home to keep safe.
    6th Jul 2020
    Was it Daniel Andrews who said people have a right to protest, hence thousands ignored social distancing rules and headed en masse for the streets. What an idiot. He says he takes advice from health officials, yet ignored their advice on the protests for political reasons. All early talk about a vaccine has virtually expired. Leaders will soon have to come up with a management plan for opening the wider economy because we're rapidly heading into depression, nothing surer. Our young people have never experienced real hardship, they think they're bullet-proof and with the whinging as an example coming from residents in the locked down public housing buildings, easy to see that community cooperation isn't a modern personality trait, except in the older demographic. I'd like someone to ask State Premiers: How many months can you continue closing borders and locking people down? 12? 24? 36? What is your collective plan for the future of this country's vulnerable and the overarching economy that belongs to everyone, young and old? They're going to be forced to eventually get a workable plan, so why not do it sooner, rather than later.
    6th Jul 2020
    The right to protest? Sure, but would you do it the middle of gun fight??

    Notably: the suggestion that not police but "have nurses, social services and community members lead the response."

    Stupidity is rife at the moment, so I cant see how a nurse waving frantically waving a red flag is going to fare against and angry mob fleeing from their building.
    6th Jul 2020
    I don'[t agree with the protests but the present problem has come from the suburbs and public housing towers not from the protests. These people claim to not understand English yet the government notices are multilingual. A lot of them fit into the older demographic you talk about as being cooperative.
    6th Jul 2020
    diamond, did I read correctly? "The present problem has come from the suburbs and public housing towers not from the protests". From which data does this assumption arise? Are we saying that people now at risk in the towers did not attend the protests and neither did their neighbours? Are we saying that the transmissions throughout suburbs were definitely not instigated/transmitted by protesters?

    It's going to be interesting to hear exactly how all this started - community transmissions were not a problem prior to the utter madness of thousands-strong public protesters.
    And if the tower dwellers don't understand English, why not? Progress towards a healthy grasp of the English language should be a pre-requisite for gifting taxpayer-funded benefits. If in fact taxpayers are now paying dearly with health risks, caused by immigrants who choose to live in non-English speaking enclaves, that should definitely change after all this - pronto.
    6th Jul 2020
    Brissiegirl, Dan Andrews is not an idiot, anymore so than the Prime Minister or any of the other state premiers or chief ministers. They are all battling a very contagious disease and generally doing a really good job, when compared with what is happening in other parts of the world, but nothing is perfect. They, and we, are all learning 'on the job'.
    People do have the common-law right to protest but, as Governor Cuomo of New York said, the state cannot force people to comply, people have to police themselves. Mr Andrews did not ignore the protests, he pleaded with people stay away, to wear masks and comply with social distancing but he was ignored by so many. Apart from using Mr Trumps 'dominate the streets' methodology or Mr Xi's police brutality, Mr Andrews was unable to prevent the protests.
    I am sure our political leaders are only too aware of the economic ramifications of the situation and they will come up with a recovery plan to open the economy when appropriate.
    I agree our young people do not seem to have a lot of resilience, however whose fault is that, ours. Our generation tried to shield our young from some the harsh realities of life and now when those harsh realities hit they have difficulty adapting to the 'new normal'.
    How many months before we extract ourselves from this situation, it will take as long as it takes. Please do not try to pin our leaders to specific timeframes because if they cannot be met we will be disappointed.
    6th Jul 2020
    Brissiegirl It is not an assumption it has been stated by the government of Victoria that the people visiting from suburb to suburb caused the community transmission and the reason given was that most of the people could not speak English or had English as their second language. I agree that people coming to this country and being paid by the government should have to learn the language.

    I doubt the people from the towers took part in the protests as they are mainly immigrants and refugees.
    6th Jul 2020
    Because tower residents are mainly immigrants and refugees does not mean they did not take part in the protests. Black Lives Matter actually, by its title, appeals to black people whilst understating its dangerous marxist agenda. The BLM protest would definitely appeal to those who may or may not live in the towers, particularly Sudanese immigrants.

    Further, Dan Andrews unilaterally signed Victoria up to the Chinese Communist Party's Belt and Road entrapment with no reference to the Federal Government and/or the wider Australian community. That single-handed decision was the work of a delusional political idiot and unless wiser leaders have it stopped it very seriously exposes Australia to the behest of one of the most dangerous regimes in the world. It was blatant deception of the electorate. IMO Andrews lack of common sense and intelligence on that one issue, now combined with his foolish mis-handling of the Victorian pandemic situation says it all.

    Also, my opinion was not meant to be interpreted as expecting economic time frames on any politicians. I am interested in how long the present "lockdowns" and closures can continue (not only in this country, but others too). If this continues for 12 months, as with the re-thought advice on the wearing of masks, and management approaches then change, will the damage to the economy have continued longer than necessary? At some point we may have to accept that we must co-exist with the virus perhaps forever. I'm just interested in where that point kicks in. IMO No government can continue handing money out as is occurring now.
    6th Jul 2020
    Apologies for cross posting, but we seem to have two discussions on the same subject. - My suggestion follows.

    Supermarkets are an essential service yet there seems no way to make them Covid Catching proof, - social distancing fails and must fail unless the numbers inside are tiny, and every single customer is followed by a protective suited staff with a sprayer to spray each item that customer touched and the floor they walked on, and the air they breathe immediately sucked out above them and vented to atmosphere.
    Not to mention the huge crowds waiting outside with queue jumpers disregarding social distancing so as push past and push in, and spit on anyone with a mask or not who would hinder their selfish idiocy.
    So, What to Do, we all have to eat.
    My Proposal is that the Supermarkets, with Govt. assistance, install a number of booths Outside the supermarket, - sheltered, but in the open air, possibly up against the walls of the Supermarket, whatever, and in each booth is an Audio - Visual Screen which allows the customer to see clearly and talk to the Cash-out person at their cash register, who sees and talks to them, - almost as if they were breathing the same air But, They are Not.
    The Customer discusses their order, which the cashout person enters as they so do, so it creeps down a part of the screen, - easy for the customer to see, and change, as they go, until the customer has finished, upon which they agree, and swipe their card on the card swipe there also, - perhaps on the screen?. The booth will also contain some wipes, a security camera and a small nozzle to spray a mist of non invasive disinfectant over everything when the customer leaves. The customer then leaves
    the booth, which no-one can enter until they have left, the spray instantaneously sprays, then the door opens to the next customer, who may need to wipe the screen or whatever, but then says hello, perhaps they know the cashier, quick personal greeting and does their order, and so on, just as if they were IN the super market, but they are not, no one can cough on anyone, breathe near anyone, jostle anyone, - nothing is touched that can carry Covid to anyone else, that Covid Vector is closed. Full Stop.
    Meanwhile the customer moves around the side of the building to where there are numbered schutes that will deliver their bagged order to them, Well supervised to ensure every body gets their correct order by scanning their receipt in, they pick up their order and go, some may need a trolley that wll be ready for them, then they go, - room for next person to access that schute, life goes on, Covid doesn't get spread.

    This is not an expensive thing to do, - most supermarkets have cash registers connected to wifi that could easily fit into such a system, the same staff normally required should be able to handle the picking instead of the packing, so nobody lose their jobs, supermarkets already have limited time to be open for 24 hours, the Govt could make it only supermarkets with the screens have 24 hours so they lose no money, we already have over the screen doctors, many supermarkets have no cash register, do it your self sections so those folk will be more savvy to the new regime, it should not be a problem.
    The real problem is covid 19, - and the next pandemic, etc. lock down is fine, confining it to just that family, problem is when somebody in that family goes to the supermaket, - there they spread it to another family, - nobody knows until someone gets really really sick and they have to go to a doctor or hospital, - but the cat is then out of the bag, some chance encounter at the Supermarket blows all the care and testing and everything, it is the loaded covid gun at our throats.

    At the least Premier, Brian Andrews of Victoria should be given this option, I have tried ringing his departments, got no where, - people are dying because nobody can imagine doing anything differently. hopefully someone in YLC or any of you, my fellow YLC members can pass this idea on.
    Admittedly more would also need to be done to make sure folk do not bunch up outside the booths, - but with like airports, zig-zag lines, security of some degree, spreading it over 24 or so hours, all could be fine and fair and safe. - Of course, thoughtful care must be taken to stop bunching up anywhere in the process, and as already, some security staff may be required.
    this will be helped by the security camera system generally already in place.

    As the case numbers rise, - and could so easily spread to other states, - and probably will, I despair that such an easy solution to probably THE major vector, Supermarkets, and probably could be used by much other retail shops as well, is just ignored.
    6th Jul 2020
    Youre off your head
    6th Jul 2020
    Lookfar. How many cases of supermarket transmission have been reported? The only supermarket closures I have seen have been because a worker has gone to work whilst positive.
    8th Jul 2020
    Lookafar as someone said the last time you posted this 'suggestion', you haven't thought this through. For a start why would anyone go and queue in the street to do something they can do from the comfort of their own home? All you are doing is moving the 'risk' from one place to another. And that doesn't even account for the substantial costs involved in setting up the hardware, software and staff training in order to do what can already be safely done right now.
    7th Jul 2020
    So now we are living in a 'medicocracy' where doctors determine the direction of society. Whatever happened to parliament and those people we thought we had elected? This looks more and more like a virus inspired push toward a totalitarian state.
    7th Jul 2020
    BilF2, would you prefer Dutton determine the direction of Society? I gather he is sweating to copy all the Hong Kong changes into Australian Law.
    7th Jul 2020
    Diamond, nobody is able to track the cases possibly picked up at the super market, - we are not talking about staff, who are somewhat protected, but of Us the customers, - so if we look at a person who goes to the Supermarket once a week as an average, - some people go almost every day, some people get other people to go for them but that figure still holds approximate status, so a person contracts Covid, - we don't know where, but for 5 days at least he/she shows no symptoms, and even when he does, there is the visit to the doctor, (Maybe by phone, - which is using a similiar principle to what I am suggesting, - consider that!) has the test, another day, and maybe worried he/she is infected so goes to the supermaket and buys up for 14 days, - but just as the average, without that likely accelerating effect, 5 days out of 7 means anyone who is infected by Covid has 71%, chance of just ordinarily going to the supermarket in that time - Yes, 71% have gone to the Supermarket in that period, so the likelihood of them infecting somebody else is quite strong, and almost impossible to track and trace etc, so becomes a totally random major forcing in the spread of Covid-19.

    Just please consider, Diamond, anyone infected has 71% chance of going to a supermarket during that un-diagnosed but infectious period, would you risk your family on that if people with covid are around?

    IMHO, it is not proper to denigrate an idea that could save thousands of lives,for no reason, but on the other hand you have shown me a weakness in my presentation of that idea in that I had not calculated the very high risk of Supermarket infection.
    Thank you very much for forcing me so to do, to me, living in a small country town with lots of aged folk, it seemed that everybody goes to the Supermarket, and their only risk of infection is the Supermarket unless someone in their family has it..

    So I would emphasize, - don't rely on social distancing, some fools think that covid 19 is some sort of conspiracy, and fine, but that doesn't stop it killing people, so the quicker we eliminate the Major vector of the Supermarket, the better our chances of handling a second wave as is happening in Victoria right now and also from stopping a second wave over the rest of Australia.

    In the long term, it also means keeping the relaxation of lockdown justifiable as a major vector has been scotched.
    8th Jul 2020
    The tracking down of strangers in the event someone is diagnosed is exactly what the app does.
    8th Jul 2020
    Its all very easy to blame the Victoriam Government and politicians - on this site you would expect nothing less! BUT the blame belongs with those who flouted health advice and clearly did not apply social distancing.

    There may not have been many COVID-19 cases directly related to the BLM protests (4 I believe) but the very fact that 10,000 disobeyed health orders to do so is directly related to everything that happened since. If it is OK for 10,000 to march through Melbourne, why wasn't it OK for my extended family of just 25 to get together for a religious celebration? Or why can't I meet my friends and not just 5 of them? And so it goes. Also the red herring of migrants not having enlough English to understand is another furfy. From the beginning, Government at all levels and community organisations have produced information in a multitude of languages. Melbourne is not the only multicultural city in Australia with thousands whose first language is not English. This is another attempt to blame someone else rather than take responsibility for personal behaviour.

    This Victorian outbreak, whilst undoubtedly not helped by the failures of the quarantine hotel processes, procedures and behaviours of some of the security guards, has been more widely spread because people failed to take health advice and be socially distant and considered the whole thing a beat-up - mainly because of Australia's success in containing the virus.

    The very 'woke' conspiracy theorists continue to demand their rights whilst at the same time rejecting any responsibility and accountability that goes with them. Actions have consequences, and they are now paying the bill for that.
    8th Jul 2020
    KSS, the App does not drill down into your hand, take some blood and test you for covid and then tell everyone around you, sort of like the Leper with his Bell chanting "Unclean, Unclean" no, the person, with or without an App, gets out of his bus, - unbeknownst to him, he has picked up covid-19, he enters the Supermarket, infectious, inhaling air and exhaling clouds of viral droplets that can live for 3 hours and spread 4 metres, KSS, in the same market and with his App. fully charged saunters along the aisles buying this and that, breathing in, inevitably breathing in some of the infectious persons droplets, picks up a nice apple that unfortunately the first one picked up already and put back.
    KSS now has Covid virus in his lungs and on his hand, will it be enough to infect him? we don't know, but that first fellow was doing his shopping that day, he went to two supermarkets, Big W, Bunnings and Supercheap, - all stores with social distancing and constant cleaning. - 5 days later he manifests symptoms, is tested and found infected, say he has an app. the tracers indicate he gets out a lot works in a bank, they close down the bank, deep clean it, isolate all the staff and put all customers that they have recorded on watch, - normal stuff, until they get to the shopping day, - unfortunately it was a Friday, very busy, and this fellow had walked all over town from shop to shop, busily exhaling Covid drops wherever he went, they found that during the 3 hours in each Supermarket/department store that his droplets lived, about two thousand people went through each of those premises, so Ten Thousand people needed to be tracked and traced, each of which may have developed Covid and gone to other supermarkets etc. in other towns, scattering their droplets where they mayby the billions, the trackers and tracers are always going to be 5 days behind, the resources are not there to do the tracking and tracing once a second wave passes a certain stage, the Supermarkets have to stop being a vector or we may lose it altogether, and my idea, well thought through if you would read it unbiased, will stop it.
    So our KSS in this example, did catch covid but as luck would have it was staying alone at the time, and had only gone out once in the entire 5 days so it was only possible he could have caught it at the Supermarket, - a very rare situation and he possibly even then wouldn't have admitted it but that he had been skirmishing on the YLC site with that bloody Lookfar on that very same issue.

    So, it is a real issue, let's be grown up and find the best solution, home delivery doesn't work, it is far too expensive for poor people and requires a net savvyness that many of our age do not have and will not have.
    My idea has it's good points, although needs a bit of fleshing out, but you may come up with something better, I am happy to have a look at it.
    9th Jul 2020
    KSS, it is perhaps timely that the Victorian Govt has come out with a statement that the difference between the 1st wave and the second, is two words, Community Transmission.
    As My total goal was halting Community transmission, - which occurs principally in Supermarkets and big department stores, I would suggest you change your mind, socks and underwear, and start thinking of helpful Solutions rather than attacking others' solutions.
    10th Jul 2020
    Talking of incompetence, what about the 14 planes that arrived in WA today with no-one stopping them? At this rate we will be joining Victoria. Very little distancing is also being practiced and we have become too complacent!

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