Lock­down city: no free­dom yet



Five mil­lion Mel­bur­ni­ans will con­tinue to have their move­ments po­liced in­def­i­nitely and re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses will have to wait un­til Novem­ber to re­open, un­der Daniel An­drews’ re­vised plan for wind­ing back coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions that have also quashed hopes of AFL grand fi­nal cel­e­bra­tions.

Af­ter more than 100 days of lock­down that has re­sulted in daily in­fec­tions in their hun­dreds fall­ing to sin­gle dig­its, the Vic­to­rian Premier claimed it was still too early to dra­mat­i­cally wind back re­stric­tions that limit the abil­ity of many hos­pi­tal­ity and re­tail em­ploy­ees to work.

Busi­ness groups, health ex­perts and politi­cians have crit­i­cised the Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment’s lat­est re­vised roadmap for wind­ing back re­stric­tions, warn­ing that de­lays to re­open­ing busi­ness, many which have been shut since July, were un­nec­es­sary, given the state’s cur­rent COVID-19 case num­bers.

Vic­to­ria recorded just two new in­fec­tion cases and no deaths on Sunday and there have been just five new cases over the past three days, tak­ing the 14-day rolling av­er­age to 7.5.

Yet busi­ness has been largely ex­cluded from changes that kicked in at 11.59 last night.

In a com­pli­cated and at times con­tra­dic­tory roadmap, hair­dressers, out­door car washes and mobile pet groomers can now open and res­i­den­tial prop­erty auc­tions can re­sume with lim­ited num­bers. But re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity will have to wait un­til the third step, sched­uled for 11.59pm on Novem­ber 1, to re­open.

With the AFL grand fi­nal sched­uled for Satur­day, and reign­ing premier Rich­mond to play Gee­long at Bris­bane’s Gabba — the first time the fi­nal game hasn’t been held in Mel­bourne — Mr An­drews is­sued a pointed warn­ing to foot­ball fans.

He said no one should be con­sid­er­ing breach­ing pub­lic health rules by hav­ing vis­i­tors to their homes to cel­e­brate and warned that po­lice would be on the look­out for rule-break­ers.

“I‘m ap­peal­ing to peo­ple, as sig­nif­i­cant as the day is, it’s got to be dif­fer­ent,” he said. “The teams that are in that grand fi­nal have had ar­guably the most dif­fi­cult sea­son ever. They fol­lowed the rules. They’ve been in quar­an­tine. They’ve had all sorts of re­stric­tions placed on them.

“We need to do the same. It’s not an or­di­nary grand fi­nal in ev­ery sense.”

Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion Vic­to­ria pres­i­dent David Canny, who had been urg­ing the in­dus­try to re­open in a COVID­Safe way, said mem­bers were “bit­terly dis­ap­pointed” by the time­line.

He said it would make more sense to al­low foot­ball fans to gather in ho­tels, where in­ter­ac­tions could be reg­u­lated, and the de­ci­sion to keep venues closed could back­fire.

“As if peo­ple aren’t go­ing to get to­gether to watch the grand fi­nal,” Mr Canny said.

“With pubs closed peo­ple are go­ing to go to other peo­ple’s houses. And re­mem­ber that’s what sparked the sec­ond wave — not pubs and restau­rants — it was peo­ple gath­er­ing in pri­vate homes.”

Scott Mor­ri­son wel­comed the Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to en­able some busi­nesses to re­turn to lim­ited op­er­a­tions but urged it to con­sider ex­pe­dit­ing the next steps.

“We un­der­stand and sym­pa­thise with the frus­tra­tion and con­cern ex­pressed by busi­nesses about the on­go­ing cost and im­pact on their jobs and liveli­hoods of this sec­ond wave,” the Prime Min­is­ter said in a joint state­ment with fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt.

“Vic­to­ria’s three-day rolling av­er­age is now be­low two cases per day. Main­tain­ing this re­sult will make a strong case for the re­tail

No grand fi­nal bar­be­cue with friends is worth it DANIEL AN­DREWS

and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tors to re­open be­fore the next re­view date in Novem­ber.”

Mr Mor­ri­son said ev­ery day that Vic­to­ria re­mained un­der re­stric­tions came at a “heavy cost”.

“More than 1000 jobs have been lost, on av­er­age, ev­ery day,” he said. “The con­tin­ued health, men­tal health and fi­nan­cial im­pacts of these re­stric­tions will be pro­found on many Vic­to­ri­ans.”

A new six-page guide for eas­ing re­stric­tions re­leased on Sunday de­tailed a com­pli­cated list of changes to lim­its on peo­ple’s free­dom of move­ment, pub­lic gath­er­ings, sport and re­cre­ation pur­suits, cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions and in­dus­tries and work­places. Most Vic­to­ri­ans will be re­quired to con­tinue work­ing from home be­yond the Novem­ber eas­ing.

Re­gional Vic­to­ria, which has a 14-day rolling av­er­age of less than one case, will be gov­erned by dif­fer­ent rules. It too will have re­stric­tions eased from Mon­day en­abling hos­pi­tal­ity venues to cater to more pa­trons, li­braries and swim­ming pools to open and peo­ple to wel­come more vis­i­tors into their homes.

Changes af­fect­ing Mel­bourne from Mon­day will largely gov­ern so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and in­clude an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple who can gather out­doors to 10 from a max­i­mum of two house­holds and the scrap­ping of the pre­vi­ous two-hour time limit on leav­ing home.

How­ever, the four per­mit­ted rea­sons for leav­ing home — shop­ping, med­i­cal vis­its, care­giv­ing and ex­er­cise or so­cial in­ter­ac­tion — will re­main, as will a limit on how far a per­son can travel from their home, which will in­crease from 5km to 25km.

The so-called “ring of steel” around metropoli­tan Mel­bourne, pre­vent­ing res­i­dents from leav­ing the city with­out a valid rea­son, will re­main in­def­i­nitely, with Mr An­drews claim­ing it would be

“strength­ened” with more po­lice checks car­ried out to pro­tect re­gional Vic­to­ria from the virus.

He said he “hoped” it could be scrapped by Christ­mas but could give no guar­an­tee.

Mr An­drews also con­ceded that it was dif­fi­cult to quan­tify a pre­cise pub­lic health ben­e­fit of the new 25km bound­ary, which has been la­belled as un­nec­es­sary by some health ex­perts.

Deakin Univer­sity epi­demi­ol­o­gist Cather­ine Bennett ques­tioned the need for the limit, es­pe­cially given the state ap­peared ready to move to a third stage of eas­ing re­stric­tions un­der which move­ment lim­its were not a part of the orig­i­nal roadmap.

In­fec­tious dis­eases physi­cian Peter Col­lignon agreed: “Fun­da­men­tally, it doesn’t do much”.

“Pro­vided peo­ple are keep­ing to the rules when they go out, it doesn’t mat­ter if they travel 25km or 50km or 100km,” Pro­fes­sor Col­lignon said.

The Premier con­ceded that he was un­able to com­mit to a date when leav­ing-home re­stric­tions would be dropped al­to­gether, and said the 25km limit could re­main in place for some weeks af­ter mov­ing to the next stage of eas­ing from Novem­ber 1.

“These changes can’t be ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing ev­ery­one wants,” he said. “But they are the steps we can safely take that will make life a lit­tle bit eas­ier.”

Mr An­drews said that cases and ac­com­pa­ny­ing data would be re­viewed ev­ery day dur­ing the week “and when we get to next week­end, if we can move any ear­lier and do it safely, we will”.

For­mer Vic­to­rian Lib­eral premier and Hawthorn Foot­ball Club pres­i­dent Jeff Ken­nett also weighed in, ac­cus­ing the Premier to “talk­ing down” to Vic­to­ri­ans.

“We lost the foot­ball sea­son and the grand fi­nal be­cause he failed,” Mr Ken­nett said. “Now he will not al­low any cel­e­bra­tions. What a sad­ness for those who have a team in the (fi­nal).”


Premier Daniel An­drews in Mel­bourne on Sunday tells Vic­to­ri­ans it is still too early to dra­mat­i­cally wind back re­stric­tions

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