The head of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce says Covid-19 roadmap templates for business are based around a four-step “traffic light” system, as Victorians eagerly await the government exit roadmap from lockdown on Sunday.
The chamber’s chief executive, Paul Guerra, has outlined to Guardian Australia the draft Covid-19 roadmaps the government is using to consult with Victorian business ahead of easing restrictions.
“If you move down the vertical axis [of the template] there are these six common requirements. [They are] ensure physical distancing, wear a mask, practise good hygiene, quickly act if staff become unwell, avoid interactions in enclosed spaces and create workforce bubbles,” Guerra said.
“Then across the horizontal axis, you’ve got the four phases … Closed, which is red, heavily restricted, which is orange, restricted, which is yellow, and then green – open with the Covid-safe plan. So obviously every business wants to be in the green section… as quick as possible.”
But key information was still missing from the template, he said, such as the dates or infection thresholds dictating when each phase would begin.
“That’s the missing link. We can do all this work, but what we need to understand is: how do you move from red to orange, and from orange to yellow? How do you move from yellow to green?” he said.
“And importantly, if we do get spot fires, what has to happen in specific industries? Perhaps to move back a phase or a couple of phases to get that spot fire under the control, without necessarily shutting down the whole state.”
A leaked document reported by the Herald Sun on Thursday appears to lay out the roadmap for Melbourne residents, including remaining in stage four lockdown for an additional two weeks. But the premier’s office was quick to dismiss the document saying that, although legitimate, it was out of date.
“We know every Victorian wants certainty about the future – for them, for their family and for their work. By the end of the week, we will lay out a plan to reopen our state,” a spokeswoman said.
Andrews confirmed the roadmap has not been finalised and would be informed by this week’s numbers.
Guerra said the leaked document was “fundamentally different” to those the state government provided the chamber.
“I’ve not seen that document before. It bears no resemblance to the document that we’ve been working through,” he said.
“Even the language in terms of the common requirements are different. There was no four traffic light phase … and quite frankly, we’re going to keep focusing on the template that the premier spoke about because we expect that will be the template when he talks on Sunday.”
The leaked document laid out four stages labelled “Stage 4, Lockdown”, “Stage 3 PLUS, Stay at Home”, “Stage 2, Go Outside”, “Stage 1, Stay Aware” and “Stage 0, Covid Normal”.
The deputy chief health officer, Dr Allen Cheng, said “the themes are the same”, when asked how similar the document was to plans currently being considered.
“But, you know, we’re not going to make any final decisions, and we’ll announce them on Sunday.”
Andrews has previously stated that the stages, although still labelled numerically, would be considerably different from those in the first wave.
Prof Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales and consultant for the World Health Organization, said key areas, such as workplaces, needed more target restriction this time around.
“What they also will be looking at, I expect, is having an infection control public health expert to walk the corridors of each and every one of those high-risk workplaces, working out where the problems are for the employers,” she said.
“Because employers don’t know what they don’t know.”
During the first wave, gatherings in a private homes and in public were eased at relatively the same rate. Gathering in homes proved to be a major source of transmission during the second wave and McLaws said this was a restriction that would need to change.
“Large gatherings in the home, that should be a no, no for a while, I’m sorry,” she said.
“Imagine you go and visit somebody who has a large number of people, you’re day three, or day four, you’re now infectious to others.”
This sentiment was echoed by Andrews, who admitted that large at-home gatherings would be allowed at a considerably later stage.
McLaws also pointed to areas that were of less concern than first expected and could therefore be eased earlier, such as outdoor dining and gatherings. This is consistent with the out-of-date roadmap’s “Stage 2: Go Outside” phase, which allowed a range of activities conducted in the open air.
McLaws was one of the first epidemiologists to suggest the “traffic light” infection control system, whereby the government oscillates between different levels of restrictions as case numbers rise in order to avoid widespread lockdown.
She said the term “traffic light” was a misnomer coined by Twitter, and it was closer to a bushfire warning system.
“The green status is like you have an amber burning and you can put your foot on it and it’s out. It’s always easy for authorities to find the close contacts for that number of infected people.”
She said the green zone should constitute 59 or fewer cases each fortnight, around four cases each day. At this level, no extra restrictions would have to be imposed.
“Then it [would go] to amber, that is 60 to 99 cases [per fortnight]. That’s when you respond. That’s when you might do things like curfew or mask use.” That would be for around four to seven cases per day.
“You don’t let it get to red,” McLaws said.
“The red zone is at 100 [per fortnight, seven or more cases per day]. That is when it just escalates and never gets back down … It just gets a life of its own. It’s like a bushfire on all fronts, which is what happened in Victoria sadly,” she said.
It’s at this point that wider, more severe lockdowns would need to be imposed, the epidemiologist added, but the goal is to never reach it.
On Thursday, Victoria recorded 113 cases and the seven-day average still sits around 100.
Source: The Guardian