Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has given a big hint as to what the pathway out of strict stage four restrictions will look like, and it’s bad news for those hoping for a quick return to more normal conditions.
It looks likely stage four will remain for a while longer.
The Premier spoke after it was confirmed the state had recorded 76 new coronavirus cases overnight, showing a continuing decline in infections.
“Obviously, 76 new cases is still a really significant challenge for us,” he said.
“To open up with those numbers would see the total number of coronavirus infections explode. It would see many, many hundreds, indeed thousands, of Victorians infected.”
Opening too soon could see a “far worse third wave” he said.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has said the numbers are not reducing as quickly as he would like.
“It’s going in the right direction (but) it’s too slow for all of us, it’s too slow for me”.
On Sunday, the Victorian Government is set to explain its road map out of stage four restrictions. The strict curfew and lockdowns were due to finish on September 13 but are widely expected to be extended for several more weeks.
Talking to reporters today, Mr Andrews gave every indication the removal of stage four restrictions would continue until numbers were lower.
“As frustrating, as challenging as it is, we need to stay the course on this.
“That’s why tomorrow we will outline a road map to ease these important restrictions, to ease out of the second wave, once it’s appropriately and properly defeated. Truly defeated. So that we can be sure that the settings we lock in can be defended,” he said.
“Every Victorian has given so much, and it will mean nothing if we open too much, too fast
“Tomorrow, Victorians will get a plan that is steady and safe and will deliver a COVID normal that can last months and months, not just weeks.”
The Premier said his preference was to get new case numbers down to a lower level rather than opening up sooner and risk closing down again.
“What we are trying to achieve here and what I am confident we will achieve is not to open for a few weeks and then we see hundreds of thousands of cases that we need to shut down again.
“This thing is wicked, stubborn, and silent and moves with such speed that unless we see it defeated properly in the second wave, we will be open for just a few weeks, one month, may and then it will all be back again and arguably it will be worse than it ever was.”
Mr Andrews said he only wanted to ease restrictions when the state was in a position to keep them eased for months, or even more than a year, until a vaccine was found.
“It is about steady and safe easing of these rules, so that we can lock in a lasting COVID normal. Not for weeks, months, as long as it takes.”
Mr Sutton said new infections were falling at a slower rate than hoped for.
“We want to see this disappear. We have been so very patient. But it is hard yakka.
“I’ve got some impatience about not being at zero. I’d love to see it drop much faster. But these are the most difficult chains of transmission to get on top of.
“There are lots of efforts that need to be made across lots and lots of different areas to really crush this.”
Mr Sutton said zero local transmission would not be the yardstick for loosening restrictions as there was no indication when – or even if – that might happen.
“We may or may not be able to get there. There aren’t many places around the world that have got to those low levels.
“We are just getting to a position where we get low enough numbers that we can sustain those numbers at the lowest possible level,” he said.
“It’s not to say that we won’t progress with relaxation of restrictions, with some small numbers of cases, as long as we can sustain control of those numbers. That’s the principle.”