Victoria’s Opposition is calling for stage 3 restrictions to be reintroduced in Melbourne as soon as next week, rather than continuing with stage 4 and the current roadmap out of lockdown.
- Under stage 3 restrictions, there is no curfew and more industries can operate, but stay-at-home orders still apply
- The Premier has warned opening up early could see cases spike
- But Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien says the Premier has gone “rogue” and is ignoring the advice of modellers
Stage 3 restrictions mean people who can work from home must do so, but most industries are allowed to operate.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has been critical of the lockdown’s harshness, but until today had not outlined a detailed alternative plan.
Now, he has called for Melbourne to return to stage 3 restrictions, with mandatory mask-wearing, from next week.
“It’s time to go to stage 3 restrictions with masks for Melbourne,” he said.
“That would be a sensible way to get some businesses safely reopened, with COVID-safe work plans. Why keep people out of work unnecessarily?”
Under the two roadmaps announced last Sunday, one for Melbourne and one for the rest of the state, there are five “steps” out of lockdown, each involving a threshold for case numbers.
The first step begins in Melbourne on Monday and sees most current stage 4 lockdown restrictions continue, with some tweaks.
The most substantial easing of restrictions, known as the third step, will only come into effect in Melbourne from October 26 — but only if the state records an average of fewer than five new daily cases, and a total of five “mystery cases”, over two weeks.
It is then retail and dine-in hospitality venues are due to reopen, and a potential staged return to school for year 3 to 10 students could take place.
Premier Daniel Andrews has consistently warned if restrictions are eased too suddenly it could plunge the state back into a third wave.
Daniel Andrews accused of ‘ignoring the modellers’
University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely, who co-authored the modelling used by the Government, said the target for moving to the thid step was “too stringent”.
He told the Herald Sun newspaper the target of fewer than five daily coronavirus cases across two weeks was overly cautious.
“That’s their [the Government’s] call, it’s not one I would have made,” he said.
Professor Blakely said he would have aimed for an average of 10 cases per day, rather than five.
His University of Melbourne colleagues, dean and assistant vice-chancellor of health Shitij Kapur and professor of mathematical biology James McCaw, said “no major city in Europe has attempted to suppress transmission to this extent”.
In a piece for The Australian newspaper, the professors wrote that many of the assumptions used in the modelling may change in coming weeks.
“Could Melbourne get to fewer than five cases over a fortnight by October 26? Yes, it is possible. But it would be quite a remarkable achievement,” they wrote.
“Just as we laud the government for providing clear guidelines based on a September 3 model, we urge the government to keep refining the models, perhaps build in considerations such as aged-care versus community, or rural versus metro, into future modelling.”
Reviewing roadmap a decision for ‘down the track’: Sutton
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was “entirely possible” the targets for the roadmap could change as the data did.
“But they are judgements to make down the track and we will do it on the basis of how things are going over the next few weeks,” he said.
There have also been criticisms levelled at the Government over the decision to extend the Melbourne-wide nightly curfew until the third step, despite the Chief Health Officer and Victoria Police Chief Commissioner both saying the recommendation did not come from them.
Mr Andrews today said the curfew was about “giving police the easiest set of rules to enforce”.
But Mr O’Brien said “this is a Premier who is increasingly going rogue”.
“He’s been ignoring the modellers, and ignoring the police and the CHO [Chief Health Officer] when it comes to the curfew,” Mr O’Brien said.
Federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who represents the Melbourne seat of Goldstein, has recently asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to examine whether the curfews are a violation of people’s rights and freedoms.
“The simple reality is we need to make sure that measures are necessary, sustainable to maintain public confidence, and when they’re not, they should go,” he told ABC Weekend Breakfast.