THE State Government has finally seen reason.
After locking down regional Victoria last week because of a false positive in the sewerage system at Wangaratta, country Victoria is being allowed out of lockdown from 11:59pm tonight, Monday, August 9, 2021.
An avalanche of protest hit the government after the Wangaratta claims were proved false, chief among them, the Nationals leader Peter Walsh who said, the only response from the Premier was to reopen regional Vic.
And that’s exactly what’s happened today, after the Premier apologised at the weekend, but stumped up further allegations of positives in the sewerage at Healesville and Benalla.
Here’s what Mr Andrews said at the daily briefing on Monday, August 9 (today):
“And now turning to some really positive news. After four days of lockdown and no cases in regional Victoria, I’m very pleased to be able to announce that Cabinet, both last night and confirmed this morning on advice from the Chief Health Officer, Regional Victoria will be released from these lockdown measures, and will return to the settings, snap back to the settings that applied last Thursday from 11:59pm tonight.
“So that means the five reasons to leave home are no longer relevant. School will be open again from tomorrow. Hospitality venues will be open, people will be able to go back to work if they’re an authorized worker but if you can work from home, you should work from home.
“That is a very important decision one that’s made on the best of health advice and one that is fundamentally the function of not having cases in regional Victoria. That’s very important.
“We do have a conservative approach to these things. We don’t want this virus to spread, but this is very positive news and speaks to the fact that we do have a degree of containment around these cases.
“There is a degree of localisation if you like to these cases and pleasingly, we haven’t seen cases in regional Victoria over these last four or five days.
“So, I’m sure that’ll be welcome news to every single regional Victorian.
“Just on enforcement, the Victoria Police will be out in force enforcing those rules, wherever you are in the state. I would ask people to use common sense and good judgment. Don’t travel to regional Victoria unless you need to, and indeed retailers and other businesses who are providing goods and services, we’ll be relying on them, as we have been in the past, to be establishing the address of any customers.
“So, there’s no point going to regional Victoria. You won’t be able to buy so much as a litre of milk without establishing that you’re from regional Victoria so no one from Melbourne should be going to the regions unless they have a valid reason, whether that be education, caregiving, work, where that is a permitted job, so on and so forth.
“People from regional Victoria can travel through Melbourne to get to another part of regional Victoria, but they need to use common sense and good judgment. This is all very simple. We’re in it we are all in this together, and no one should be making any decisions that contribute to the spread of this virus.
“Please make good decisions, sound decisions, use common sense, and don’t put at risk the fact that we have little if any virus in, cases that is, and virus in regional Victoria and we’re allowed to take these proportionate and very important steps to reopen, back to the rules as they applied late last week in regional Victoria.”
Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton:
“Certainly, we’ve always said that restriction shouldn’t be in place for a moment longer than is required. There’s always a judgment involved in that decision making but it is my judgment that regional Victoria has gotten to that point where we can ease restrictions.
“We always look at a number of factors, the risk, but also the consequences of making these changes.
“We saw consequences play out with a really super spreading event at the MCG, where people come from across the state of Victoria and then return home. That’s a particular risk.
“We haven’t really had those events in this most recent outbreak, therefore there are no cases in regional Victoria. We’ve seen some wastewater detections in the regions but they might be reflective of a time when we were still free to move about the state. We follow those wastewater detections over time. There have been no new, unexpected wastewater detects in the last couple of days, which is a positive sign, but we’ll keep an eye on that.
“We also know that people are testing. We’re chasing up all of the cases that we’ve got here, we’re finding all of the new cases in people who are linked, and finding those primary close contacts and increasingly we’ll see those individuals in quarantine for their entire period.
So, less of a risk of community exposure, both in metro Melbourne but also potentially in regional Victoria, if for example they’re essential workers.
“But there are no exposure sites in regional Victoria, no cases, there are just a few primary close contacts, so it is appropriate to ease those restrictions now in regional Vic.
“Some of the guarantees or some of the protections for regional Victoria relate to Melburnians knowing what they need to do, so not traveling to regional Victoria unless they’re permitted to, unless there’s an absolute reason to do so, and I’ve got confidence in metropolitan Melburnians doing exactly that.
“We also know, it’s not that regional Victorians need to be the police, but we know that they’ll have a huge vested interest in protecting their communities, and they’ll be on the lookout to make sure that no one is coming to hospitality services, to retail services if they shouldn’t be there.
“There are no changes to metropolitan Melbourne at this stage, but we have seen 1000s of people as close contacts, transmission in large schools and in shopping centres, and just a few days have seen our highest caseload, I think since September of last year.
“So, it’s too early to say when we can make those changes, but we know that we’re now catching up with this outbreak, bit by bit.”
Premier Daniel Andrews:
“Today is a great day for regional Victoria and in many respects this a positive day for the whole state to have 11 cases. We would always prefer none but 11 cases and they’re all linked. We’re starting to see now the first of the new cases coming through that have been tucked away, no risk to public health. They’ve been in iso for 100% of their infectious period. That’s the system working as it should.
“But we’re still chasing very hard. We’re’re not out in front of this yet. I think we’re running alongside of it, but we’re not yet in front of this particular outbreak, and that’s why we need people to get tested as soon as they have symptoms, and isolate when they’re asked to do so.”
Mr Andrews encouraged people to access the payments of $450 it they can’t go to work because you’re waiting for a test result and $1500 if you can’t go to work because you have the virus or you’re a close contact.
Mr Andrews said traffic data indicated people in Melbourne were doing the right thing and staying home.
The Nationals’ Leader Peter Walsh did not mince his words:
“There’s only one response to today’s embarrassing revelations that sewerage at Wangaratta ultimately tested negative for COVID: release regional Victoria from lockdown,” said Mr Walsh, a Swan Hill local, said.
“Announcing the snap statewide lockdown due to outbreaks in parts of Melbourne, Daniel Andrews claimed wastewater at Wangaratta “has pinged, if you like, firstly positive, then it went negative and now it has gone positive again” and that this left no option but to lockdown all of regional Victoria.
“But today, local Wangaratta Mayor Dean Rees revealed the third test had in fact registered negative.
“Lie, cover-up or misinformation – no matter how the Premier got it so wrong, Labor now has one choice: release regional Victoria from the seven-day lockdown.
“Thousands of people, businesses and jobs are trapped in a loop of catastrophic mental, social and economic destruction because the Andrews Labor Government still can’t get the basics right.
“Daniel Andrews based this statewide lockdown on misinformation – at best. At worst, Daniel Andrews has deceived Victorians for his own political ends.
“Every day our communities remain closed is another day of lost income for families who are barely making ends meet.”
He said the Andrews Labor Government had to come clean with the public health advice in the interests of transparency and accountability.