The Weekly Advertiser Horsham
Regional lockdown relief, ‘but too late’
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy welcomed the State Government’s lifting of regional Victoria from a statewide lockdown.
But Ms Kealy said while the move was the right thing to do, it came four days too late for many Victorians.
“With no active cases or exposure sites in regional Victoria, families, small business owners and communities had been pleading for common sense,” she said.
“The announcement means our kids are back in the classroom, our pubs, coffee shops, beauty services and retail stores can reopen and that loved ones can again gather for the moments where we need connection the most – at weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies.
“But it’s the lockdown regional Victoria didn’t need to have.
“It’s four days too late for regional cafes, restaurants and pubs that had to cancel bookings and throw out tens of thousands of dollars worth of fresh food ahead of another snap lockdown.
“It’s four days too late for the Victorians
who couldn’t go to work because they are in casual work; for tourism and entertainment businesses that were already struggling to survive but have lost another busy weekend of trading; for our children who couldn’t go to school, forcing teachers to make last-minute changes to their education plans twice in just a few days; and for the many Victorians who are mentally overwhelmed with the constant yo-yoing in and out of Labor’s lockdowns.”
People living in regional Victoria, including the Wimmera-mallee and Western District, will still need to follow various COVID-19 guidelines despite the State Government lifting a lockdown on regional Victoria.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Monday morning that regional Victoria would come out of statewide lockdown based on advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer.
The lifting of hard restrictions meant the government removed the ‘only five reasons to leave home’ guidelines for regional Victoria.
Lockdown rules remain in place for metropolitan Melbourne.
Mr Andrews, when last week initially confirming the lockdown was for regional as well as metropolitan Victorians, said the move was based on a positive wastewater test in Wangaratta and an example of how a previous outbreak had spread as far as Mildura.
“We all have to play our part,” he said.
Ms Kealy congratulated Wangaratta mayor Dean Rees ‘for standing up for his community – and every regional Victorian’ to provide clarity around wastewater testing.
“It was Cr Rees’ revelations on Friday that the Premier was – at best – misinformed… that meant hundreds of thousands of Victorians could come out of lockdown,” she said.
She added that Mr Andrews should have lifted the regional lockdown as soon as he knew the truth.
“Living under constant threat of lockdown is killing our communities in regional Victoria,” she said.
“Victorians deserve a plan out of lockdown that uses rapid testing so we can have a proportionate, targeted response to outbreaks.”
Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster said Monday’s announcement was a great win for regional Victorians who had been ‘unjustly hurt by statewide lockdowns’.
“The announcement from the Premier that the regional Victorian lockdown would be lifted rights a wrong for regional communities,” she said.
“This lockdown was based on incorrect data and should have been lifted much sooner.
“We have suffered under unnecessary and disproportionate lockdowns over the past 16 months.
“The State Government must learn from its past actions and realise it needs to treat the regions with more respect and consideration.
“Regional communities have shown they are willing to comply and assist in testing and tracing and lockdown, when required, but not when there is no evidence of COVID-19 in our communities.
“On the weekend I wrote to the Premier urging him to lift the lockdown in regional communities.
“I also urged him to put a ring of steel around Melbourne or the localised areas where COVID is present.
“The only way for regional Victorian businesses and communities to survive the pandemic is for the government to adopt a targeted measured approach, and for everyone to get out, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.”
Regional Cities Victoria, of which Horsham is a member, also welcomed the announcement.
Regional Cities Victoria chair Kim O’keefe: “We are keen to reopen, to stimulate our local economies and communities again, and support the many regional businesses and industries that have been impacted by COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions.
“We ask all regional Victorians to continue to follow public health orders and act in a COVID-SAFE way.
“Regional Victoria is resilient and strong. The way we have responded to the pandemic and the challenges it has thrown at us is testament to this.”
For information about restriction changes, people can visit website coronavirus.vic.gov.au.