Daniel Andrews says he will outline a plan on Sunday for moving Victoria out of stage-four lockdown as the federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, declared the premier had presided over the “biggest public policy failure by a state government in living memory”.
Before Andrews flagged Sunday’s announcement, and with federal parliament set to resume, Frydenberg used a round of early morning interviews on Monday to escalate his criticism of Andrews, saying contact tracing had not been up to standard during the second wave, and Victorians needed a message of hope and a concrete timetable out of restrictions.
The Morrison government is concerned about the rising economic costs of Victoria’s lockdown but the deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said it was hard to see Victoria’s restrictions ending within a fortnight, given where the daily infection rates stood.
While pointing to Sunday as a day when he would outline future plans for reopening, Andrews rebuffed the intensifying political pressure from Canberra. The premier told reporters it was “too early today to settle that roadmap and to lock that in”.
Andrews said it was “very, very challenging for us today to predict with any certainty where we are going to be in a week or two weeks”.
“If we pretend we have seen off the second wave and we actually haven’t, if we pretend we have won a victory and we actually haven’t, then that sense of relief, that opening up will not last very long at all,” Andrews said.
“If we open up too quickly, then we will lose control of this. The numbers will explode and all the sacrifice and hard work that I’m so proud of Victorians for making and contributing will have been worth nothing.”
While the premier’s remarks were clearly directed at the strident criticism from Canberra, Andrews dead batted when he was asked to respond to the treasurer’s comments: “I’m not here to argue with Josh Frydenberg. I haven’t got time to have an argument with him or a debate or even a discussion.”
Victoria recorded 73 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, but 41 deaths were added to the state’s toll – the highest single-day increase Australia has seen during the pandemic.
The Victorian Department of Health confirmed that 33 of the 41 new deaths were aged care residents who had died in the weeks leading up to 27 August but were only reported to the department by the facilities on Sunday.
Labor has used the resumption of federal parliament to go on the offensive about aged care, given the high death rate in residential aged care during the second wave. Residential aged care is a commonwealth responsibility.
Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said Monday’s sharp increase was due to the reconciling of death tolls across the country, prompted in part by the commonwealth tightening its criteria for what constitutes a death caused by Covid-19.
“These are deaths that have happened over previous weeks, including going back to late July … the commonwealth has strengthened the reporting obligations in early August based on a need to have absolutely definitive data,” he said.
Sutton said the majority of these historic cases had now been reported but several more may be added in coming days.
Andrews said Sunday’s roadmap would cover industry in the first instance, then “things like the cafes, bars, restaurants, retail, personal care – all of those sorts of different categories that we have used”.
“The degree or the amount of information we can provide for each of those may vary – I want to be clear about that. We’re not going to be able to necessarily give every single sector a hard and fast date at which they’ll be reopening, some will have to be subject to the data and the case numbers a week after we begin reopening, two weeks after we begin reopening, so on and so forth”.
Andrews refused to rule out the possibility of stage-four restrictions being extended beyond the 13 September lockdown. The premier confirmed that the roadmap would lay out a new set of restriction stages, and stage two and three could look substantially different from what Victorians have previously experienced.
“It will be a more accurate picture of the way the virus is presenting and it is a more accurate description of our enemy, and therefore, will lead to a more successful fight against it,” he said.
Source: The Guardian