Melburnians were looking forward to a reprieve from stage four restrictions come 13 September. But Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ announcement yesterday that slightly relaxed stage four restrictions will continue for another two weeks came as a blow.
In some form or another, stay-at-home restrictions will be in place until at least the end of October.
The roadmap, although necessary to prevent the loss of countless lives, could spell the end for many businesses and will worsen the state’s economic crisis.
However, Mr Andrews said he had been left with “no choice” but to extend the lockdown.
“I apologise for the reality we find ourselves in, but we can’t change that,” he said.
“Pretending it’s over because we want it to be, that is not something I will do.”
Many Victorians have hit out at the premier, and some news outlets have referred to the plan as a roadmap to nowhere. But those who understand how the virus can decimate the state are more forgiving.
Under the new roadmap, the following rules will apply from 13 September. The 8pm curfew will be moved to 9pm. The exercise limit will be increased to two hours per day, outdoor public gatherings of two people or one household will be allowed, playgrounds can reopen and a visitor “bubble” for singles will be allowed, with one nominated person for each single.
The next three steps are all subject to health advice, and depend entirely on daily case increases going down.
Should average daily cases fall below 50 for at least a fortnight, from 28 September, childcare and more workplaces may reopen, gatherings of five people from two households will be allowed, and some students should be able to return to school. Pools may also reopen and personal training sessions with up to two clients would be allowed. Outdoor religious gatherings with five people and a leader would also be allowed.
From 26 October – or until there are fewer than five cases a day on average for a fortnight –the curfew would be abolished, as would restrictions on reasons to leave home and travel distances.
Up to 10 people would be able to gather outdoors, and up to five people from another household could visit homes. School years 3 to 10 could return and hairdressing, retail and hospitality could reopen conditionally. Outdoor, non-contact sport for adults would also be allowed.
And from 23 November, subject to health advice and meeting necessary requirements, up to 50 people would be able to gather in public and up to 20 visitors at homes, hospitality would reopen with limits, retail and real estate would reopen and up to 50 people would be allowed at weddings and funerals.
Once there are no new cases for 28 days, no active cases and “no outbreaks of concern” in other states and territories, there will be no limits on gatherings, visitors, schools, workplaces, hospitality, weddings, funerals and more.
The five-step plan aims to bring the state to COVID-normal by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the roadmap “will be hard and crushing news” for Victorians and warned of the “further economic cost” to the state and the nation.
“Of course the federal government would like to see restrictions in Victoria lifted as soon as it is safe to do so, but at the end of the day these are decisions solely for the Victorian government to determine,” he said in a joint statement with treasurer Josh Frydenberg and health minister Greg Hunt.
“It is vital to the national interest to restore Victoria to a COVIDSafe environment, where we can reopen our economy and reasonably restore the liberties of all Australians, whether in Victoria or anywhere else.”
The trio pointed out that restrictions aren’t enough to manage the virus and highlighted the “critical importance” of strengthening contact tracing processes.
“In NSW, this has enabled the Berejiklian government to respond to multiple outbreaks while permitting businesses and people to carry out their daily lives in a COVIDSafe way,” the statement reads.
“Restrictions are not substitutes for strengthening health systems to cope with the virus, especially when community outbreak is brought under control.”
Business groups have reacted with anger and concern at the roadmap, calling it a “death sentence” for Melbourne retail and questioning what health risks would be presented by allowing some stores to reopen.
“The business community had high hopes that today’s announcement would signal the end of stage 4 restrictions on 13 September and instead businesses are left frustrated and facing more weeks of lost revenue and mounting costs they can’t afford,” said Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra.
“Victoria’s economy is experiencing its biggest crisis in modern times with thousands of businesses unable to operate for most of this year, and the government needs to allow Victorians to get back to work while managing the health crisis. This cannot continue to be a choice of health over economy.”
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry agrees with the need to get the virus under control.
“That is the main game for everyone,” it said in a statement.
“But we can’t just let business and jobs be sacrificed on the way. We need to protect the community today, but we need to protect our community’s future as well.
“We will continue to do whatever we can and work with both the federal and state government to not only deliver hope, but to deliver jobs, by keeping your business alive.”
The roadmap is based on Melbourne University modelling, which forecast scenarios about the likelihood of a third wave if restrictions were loosened earlier.
“If we open up too early, we risk another resurgence and undoing the work we have done,” said Victorian deputy chief health officer Professor Allen Cheng.
Prof. Cheng added that, with between 60 and 100 cases daily, the infection rate is still too high, and Victoria was “not even close” to being able to manage the virus in the same way as NSW.
“The worst outcome for everyone is the need to have repeated lockdowns with the uncertainty of never knowing from week to week what we’re doing,” he said.
“None of us would be able to plan anything.”
What do you think of the new roadmap?
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