Victoria’s Opposition leader has blasted Premier Daniel Andrews over his vague handling of the downgrade of stage four restrictions in the state and demanded a “pathway out”.
On Monday, the Andrews government announced the plan to ease the state’s tough COVID-19 stage four restrictions will be unveiled on Sunday but Michael O’Brien is demanding to see one now, claiming “we should have been on top of this within six months”.
Victoria’s COVID-19 death toll jumped by 41 in the 24 hours to Monday, with 73 new cases also recorded.
On Monday, Mr Andrews said it was too early to “lock in” the road map now, adding another week of coronavirus data was needed to finalise the plan.
But under the current plan, restrictions that began on August 2 and lasted for six weeks means they are due lift on Sunday, September 13, if case numbers continue to dip.
Yesterday, Victorians were warned it is “too early” to start easing restrictions right now, with the Premier highlighting how essential one more week of COVID-19 data is to creating the best plan to reopen the state.
“I know that Victorians also want the clearest picture possible of what the next phase looks like. We cannot provide that certainty today.
“We cannot provide a detailed road map today, but we will provide that on Sunday, another week’s data is almost invaluable,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“I know a week feels and indeed is a long time locked at home, but it is also a very lengthy period of time when it comes to understanding what this virus is doing.
“That is a clear timeline, and one that I think will be very well received by the Victorian community.”
But a frustrated Victorian Opposition leader Michael O’Brien blasted Andrews, claiming Victorians are “suffering the brunt” of his failures and that businesses require necessary notice and need more than a week in advance to plan their reopening.
“Victorians are desperate to get our lives back. We want our jobs back, we want our family and friends back,” he said.
“And the Premier gives us a blank sheet of paper and says he’s still working on it.
“Victorians deserve light at the end of the tunnel.”
In an interview on Sky News on Monday night, Mr O’Brien said he wanted to see a “sensible path out of lockdown”, including “protecting the vulnerable”.
But he pleaded, “we must be able to safely reopen this state because we can’t keep living like this, I promise you that”.
“We’re the only state that has a second wave, we’re the only state in stage 4 lockdown and it’s all because Daniel Andrews couldn’t manage hotel quarantine, it’s all because he can’t manage contact tracing.
“The problems we’re in at the moment are because of government failures and to put your faith in Daniel Andrews to solve the problems he’s created takes a leap of faith that I and millions of Victorians just can’t handle.”
Mr Andrews has said he “can’t rule out” stage four restrictions still being in place for Melbourne beyond the September 13 end date.
“It is very difficult to know what those settings will be. They have to be guided by the data, the science and the very best medical advice,” Mr Andrews said.
“What we will provide on Sunday will be the plan that we intend to put in place, the plan that all things being equal, we will put in place, but again, it has never been my habit or my practice to be making commitments that we can’t keep.”
Mr O’Brien called some stage four restrictions “bizarre” and demanded the government “get rid of these restrictions that serve no health purpose, but only serve to keep people out of work”.
Mr Andrews said he knew the uncertainty was “deeply frustrating” for residents but noted the state couldn’t start to open up with the case numbers they are seeing now.
“If we were to open up with numbers anything like what we have had, even with a really positive trend, then those numbers will explode,” he said.
“We will lose control of this again, and instead of having the long-term stable COVID normal where businesses can return, where customers can be out there purchasing, where workers can get back to work, when profitability can come back to so many businesses, lives being saved and livelihoods, we won’t have that.
“We will have a seesawing effect where the rules are on and off, that will do enormous damage and it of course means also that we are likely then to have many thousands of people needing hospitalisation and many people dying.”
Mr O’Brien lashed the state’s new restrictions last month after the announcement of the beginning of stage four restrictions, declaring “Victorians don’t deserve this”.
“In declaring a State of Disaster, Premier Daniel Andrews has conceded that his government has lost control of COVID-19 in this state,” Mr O’Brien said in a statement.
“The failings of the Labor Government in hotel quarantine, in testing and in contact tracing have led to millions of Victorians being subjected to the harshest restrictions in our history.
“Curfews. Businesses that will be closed. Limits on daily exercise. Limits on shopping. Limits on moving 5 kilometres from your home. Unprecedented in their nature and their intrusion into the lives of Victorians.”
– with Ally Foster