Sunday’s announcement from the Victorian Government to extend lockdown arrangements will be hard and crushing news for the people of Victoria, and a further reminder of the impact and costs that result from not being able to contain outbreaks of COVID 19, resulting in high rates of community transmission.
It is vital to the national interest to restore Victoria to a COVIDSafe environment, where we can reopen our economy and reasonably restore the liberties of all Australians, whether in Victoria or anywhere else.
The proposed roadmap will come at a further economic cost. While this needs to be weighed up against mitigating the risk of further community outbreak, it is also true that the continued restrictions will have further impact on the Victorian and national economy, in further job losses and loss of livelihoods, as well as impacting on mental health.
Of course, the Federal Government would like to see restrictions in Victoria lifted as soon as it is safe to do so, but at the end of the day these are decisions solely for the Victorian Government to determine and the roadmap released today is a Victorian Government plan.
The Commonwealth Government will now consider the Victorian modelling and settings that are being provided to our experts and officials, including our Chief Medical Officer, and await their advice before responding further.
Now that we have been advised of the plan and it has been released we will also seek feedback from Victorian business and industry stakeholders to understand their concerns and seek to ensure they are addressed.
As Professor Tony Blakely, one of the lead Victorian modellers has suggested, of critical importance is that Victoria’s contact tracing is strengthened to the highest possible levels.
In NSW, this has enabled the Berejiklian Government to respond to multiple outbreaks while permitting businesses and people to carry out their daily lives in a CovidSafe way. 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.
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.
Throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government has taken action to support the lives and livelihoods of all Australians.
We will continue to support Victorians and the businesses that employ them as they deal with the impacts of the State’s second wave, by safeguarding the health and mental health of Victorians and protect and save their jobs and livelihoods wherever possible.