The PM has urged Daniel Andrews to follow New South Wales’ ‘gold standard’ model of fighting the coronavirus – as he warns Victoria’s plan is so strict Sydney would be shut down right now under the same rules.
Mr Andrews at the weekend announced a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown which keeps Victorians confined to 5km bubbles and the economy virtually shut down until at least the end of October.
The Victorian Premier said the gradual reopening will eventually free the state of the virus altogether.
But experts warn his state is being held back by its poor contact tracing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday slammed Mr Andrews’ roadmap and urged him and the rest of the country to look to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s contact tracing efforts as the ‘gold standard’ of fighting the virus.
Authorities in NSW have so far succeeded in stopping a second wave from getting out of control and life has returned to close to normal.
Tens of thousands of people are tested each day and clusters are contained by teams of disease detectives, who occupy three floors of a Sydney office building.
The different approaches between NSW and Victoria can even be seen in the Premiers’ personal lives. Gladys Berejiklian at the weekend celebrated Father’s Day with her dad, Krikor. ‘First time I’ve had my parents over to my place during COVID,’ she said
Scenes at Bondi Beach last week as spring weather arrives in Sydney and Covid restrictions fall by the wayside
Despite clusters breaking out, Ms Berejiklian has resisted plunging the state back into lockdown with the average number of daily cases standing at about eight.
But Mr Andrews wouldn’t drop Melbourne’s curfew or restrictions on how far residents can travel from their homes until the average daily case number falls below five.
As business leaders overnight slammed the Victorian plan as a ‘document of despair’ and a ‘road map to nowhere’, Mr Morrison today doubled down on his criticism of Victoria’s ‘crushing’ approach.
‘Lockdowns and borders are not signs of success in dealing with COVID 19,’ the Prime Minister said.
‘New South Wales is the gold standard – that is where we have to get everybody to to ensure everybody is open.’
Mr Morrison said NSW had stronger ‘capabilities’ in contact tracing than Victoria, which was overwhelmed by a second wave.
The Prime Minister added: ‘The plan that was outlined yesterday (by Daniel Andrews) I hope was a worst case scenario.
‘Under the thresholds set by that plan Sydney would be under curfew now.
‘Sydney doesn’t need to be under curfew now. They have a tracing capability that can deal with outbreaks’.
An almost totally deserted Bourke St, Melbourne, at the weekend – as Premier Daniel Andrews announced the city will not be free of lockdown for many weeks to come
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned he did not want to have to plunge the state into a third lockdown as he announced the state will slow-walk its escape from shut down
The different approaches between NSW and Victoria can even be seen in the personal lives of the states’ premiers.
Ms Berejiklian on Sunday visited her dad for Father’s Day, celebrating the first time they had come together at her home since Covid began.
‘First time I’ve had my parents over to my place during COVID,’ she posted to social media, alongside a photo of her father, Krikor, and mother, Arsha.
Meanwhile Mr Andrews told reporters he hadn’t been able to see his mother since Christmas, due to the bushfire crisis and then the lockdown.
‘Third world’ contact tracing in Victoria
A leading infectious diseases expert said on Monday that Victoria still has a problem with contact tracing that will make escaping lockdown difficult.
Dr Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University, said the state still has large numbers of mystery cases ‘under investigation’, weeks after they were identified by contact tracers.
Pointing to statistics published by the ABC, Dr Collignon said: ‘Victoria seems to have ongoing issue with finalising contact tracing and identifying in timely fashion (within 48hrs) close contacts of those infected or where people acquired their infection from,’ Dr Collignon tweeted on Monday.
‘This relatively poor contact tracing will make steps out of lockdown difficult.’
But the Victorian government claims it is now completing ‘almost’ all case interviews within 24 hours and contact tracing within 48 hours of notification, and reporting it publicly.
Victorians enjoy some time in the sun during their one exercise hour at the weekend
Officials claimed their contact tracing ‘capacity’ was ‘on the same level’ as the NSW government on Sunday.
‘I think the fact we have gone from 700 cases to 63 (on Sunday) is pretty good evidence that contact tracing is improving,’ said the state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton.
The state government said Defence Force and Health Department personnel visit every Victorian who test positive or are a close contact.
Meanwhile, authorities announced they have begun using artificial intelligence to interpret contact tracing interviews.
State Opposition Leader Tim O’Brien has described the state’s contact tracing efforts as ‘third world.’ ‘It simply isn’t fit for purpose,’ Mr O’Brien told Sky News.
‘It’s why we’ve had a prolonged second wave for months and months. We’ve got completely inadequate contact tracing.’
Dr Sutton said it’s possible for Victoria to get to an average of five cases a day, even as NSW struggles to do the same under different settings.
The lockdowns means the southern state won’t suffer the same ‘super spreading’ events Sydney has experienced.
Victoria reported 41 new cases on Monday, the lowest number in ten weeks. NSW reported four new cases.
MELBOURNE’S ROADMAP OUT OF COVID-19 LOCKDOWN – WHAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO AND WHEN:
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