Daniel Andrews announced he has ‘no time for politics’ as he faced tough questions on his ‘road map’ out of coronavirus lockdown on Sunday.
The Project host Lisa Wilkinson grilled the Victorian premier on the mental health risks of extending Victoria’s lockdown by two weeks.
‘How are you deciding the balance between the covid health risk and the mental health risk, particularly with today’s extension of another two weeks?’ Wilkinson asked.
‘Because isn’t there a real danger of the mental health cost of covid leaving a much deeper scar for generations to come?’
Disturbing footage of Victorians being arrested for rebelling against coronavirus restrictions – including of a pregnant woman who allegedly organised a protest on Facebook – has been uploaded in recent days.
‘Freedom Day’ protests broke out in Melbourne on Saturday and Premier Andrews was criticised when police cracked down on the anti-lockdown demonstrators because they had let thousands of people gather for Black Lives Matter rallies in June.
Premier Andrews acknowledged lockdown trauma could exacerbate mental illness and said his government would ‘double and redouble’ its efforts to support people experiencing it for the first time because of lockdown stress.
‘The need is greater because of the pressure of these last months,’ he said.
Earlier on Sunday Mr Andrews revealed the Stage Four coronavirus lockdown would be in place over metropolitan Melbourne until September 28, an extension of two weeks.
Project host Lisa Wilkinson (left) grilled Victorian Daniel Andrews (right) on the mental health costs of extending the lockdown on a community that is clearly tiring of it
After that, a four-step program out of restrictions would gradually reopen the state as daily new infection numbers fall.
The Victorian Premier has been heavily criticised in recent weeks for his tough lockdown including by business lobby groups and former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett.
Mr Kennett called Premier Andrews ‘a megalomaniac’ who was ‘destroying’ Victoria’s economy and urged independent senators to join the opposition to block legislation extending the State of Emergency, calling it a ‘grab for dictatorial power’.
The extension passed last Wednesday, however, giving Victoria’s Parliament the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions without a Parliamentary vote for an extra six months.
Ms Wilkinson said there had been ‘strong and varied’ reactions to the extended lockdown announcement, and asked why businesses that had covid-safe plans and no transmissions couldn’t open.
Premier Andrews said Victoria could not pretend the pandemic was over and simply reopen as that would doom the state to unnecessary future lockdowns.
‘It’s not so much whether a business has had a history of infections, we simply can’t allow their customers out of their homes as if this virus didn’t actually exist,’ he said
‘It’s about how many customers, how many citizens, can we have moving freely throughout metropolitan Melbourne, throughout regional Victoria, and that point seems to have been missed.
‘We can’t ignore the reality we face. Just because we want this to be over, we can’t pretend that it is.
Peter Van Onselen (left) also pressed the Victorian Premier (right) on the tough issues, asking why NSW was so different to Victoria, and why the numbers hadn’t fallen enough to open up
‘There’s a lot of pain out there, I understand that, but there’ll be even more pain if we’re open for just a few weeks and then shut down again for months.’
Co-host Peter Van Onselen asked the Premier why his approach was so different from NSW, saying: ‘If you were running NSW it would be locked down right now … how do you explain the difference?’
Premier Andrews said it was because Victoria had much more community transmission than NSW, and they had many mystery cases where tracers cannot work out how they got it or who they got it from.
Victoria announced 63 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, while NSW reported 10 in the 24 hours to 8pm Saturday.
However Peter Van Onselen pressed the Premier on his covid performance, saying people had been mostly doing the right thing.
Premier Daniel Andrews delivers the hard news about the extended lockdown and the four-week roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions on Sunday
An empty shopping mall in Melbourne on Sunday. Business groups are among those who have criticised Victoria’s premier in recent weeks as the lockdown cuts into the economy
‘Why haven’t the numbers gone down?’ he asked.
The Premier said they had.
‘Well look, the numbers have come down from over 700 to some 63 cases today, that is a mighty effort,’ Premier Andrews said.
Mr Andrews said the virus was ‘wildly infectious’ and it was a ‘dynamic environment’, and that if people let frustration get the better of them, and demanded the state open too early, then repeated lockdowns next year would be the result.
‘If we all convince ourselves to pretend it’s over when it isn’t, it’ll be back and it’ll be back with a vengeance,’ he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt put out a joint statement on Sunday afternoon calling Premier Andrews’ lockdown extension ‘hard and crushing news’ for Victoria.
The trio said Victoria’s contact tracing needed to be strengthened to the highest possible levels, saying that was what had helped the NSW Liberal government under Gladys Berejiklian to keep the state open while containing the virus.
‘This is the way forward. Restrictions are not substitutes for strengthening health systems to cope with the virus, especially when community outbreak is brought under control,’ they said.
‘The most effective means of reducing community transmission must be an effective testing, tracing and quarantine system, bolstered by enhanced local health capacity and physical distancing. These are essential prerequisites to reduce the spread, save lives and manage the economic and job impacts.’
The Project’s Peter Van Onselen put the statement’s implied criticism to Premier Andrews, who responded that he didn’t want to politicise the virus.
‘Oh, well you need to speak to the Prime Minister about the words he chooses in media releases, I spoke to him this morning before I made these announcements,’ he told The Project’s Peter Van Onselen.
‘Our partnership is a very important one, there’s no time for politics in this.’
When pressed further, he dug in to his position.
‘Prime Ministers and Premiers need to be focused on the job at hand – and that’s not trying to interpret media releases, that’s working together as closely as we can to get this job done and that’s exactly what we’re doing.’
VICTORIA’S ROADMAP OUT OF THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN – WHAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO AND WHEN:
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced his roadmap out of the strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions currently in place throughout Victoria
Step one: The first step will come in to place on September 13.
Step two: The second step will be implemented when Melbourne has 30-50 COVID-19 cases a day on average over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on September 28.
Step three: The move to step three will occur when there is a daily statewide average of five new cases over the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on October 26.
Step four: The move to step four will come when there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. The aim is for this to come into place on November 23
COVID Normal: After 28 days of no new COVID-19 cases, things will return to normal.
Step one – 11.59pm on September 13:
– Curfew will be eased to 9pm-5am
– People can still only leave home for the four reasons (shopping, exercise, work and care or medical attention)
– Public gatherings increased to two people, or a household, for a maximum of two hours
– Singles can have one nominated person to their home as part of the ‘singles social bubble’
– Childcare and early educators to remain closed
– Schools will continue to learn remotely unless they have exemptions
– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, unless they have exemption
– Only go to work if you are in a permitted industry
– Cafes and restaurants will continue with take away only
– Retail businesses will remain open for essential shopping, with others only operating with click and collect
– Only one person per household can do the essential shopping
Step two – September 28:
– Public gatherings increase again to five people from a maximum of two households
– Childcare and early educators can re-open
– Schools to continue with remote learning, but Prep to Grade Two and Year 11 and Year 12 students will gradually return to class in Term 4
– There will be an increase to permitted workplaces
Step three – October 26:
– Curfew is no longer in place
– There are no restrictions on leaving home
– Public gatherings increase to 10 people together outdoors
– A ‘household bubble’ will be introduced, so five people from one house can visit another
– Remote learning to continue, but Grades 3 to Year 11 can gradually return to class
– Adult education to continue to be done remotely, but hands on classes will see a phased return to onsite
– Work from home is encouraged
– Up to 10 people can eat together at restaurants and cafes, with the majority of tables outdoor
– Retail shops to reopen, with hairdresses operating under safety measures but beauty stores to remain closed
– Real estate agents can conduct private inspections by appointment
– The one person per household limit on shopping is to be revoked
Step four – November 23:
– Public gatherings to increase to 50 people outdoors
– Up to 20 visitors can attend a home at any one time
– All adult education will return to onsite with safety measures in place
– Groups limited to 20 indoors and a maximum of 50 patrons per venue
– All retail stores to reopen, while real estate agents can operate with safety measures and by keeping a record of attendants
Step five – COVID normal:
– Public gatherings have no restriction
– There will also be no restriction on visitors to homes
– Phased return to onsite work for work from home workers
– Schools to reopen as normal
– Restrictions on hospitality removed, but venues to continue keeping records