Contrary to promises, Melbourne, which lives under some of the toughest and longest coronavirus restrictions, will not get a reprieve on Monday, Victoria state head has announced, leaving critics fuming.
Metropolitan Melbourne was supposed to see some of its lockdown restrictions lifted starting next week. The Australian city has seen its rolling two-week average Covid-19 infections drop below five, prompting the government to indicate that the situation was good enough to ease some restrictions. But despite the high hopes, Premier Daniel Andrews said during his Covid-19 update on Sunday that it would not happen.
Andrews announced that a “cautious pause” was necessary for a couple more days to process over 1,000 Covid-19 tests from an outbreak in northern Melbourne and that a rollback should not be expected until Tuesday at the earliest.
“Put simply: this is a couple of extra days that might put us weeks ahead of this virus. To not only get on top of this outbreak – but to stamp it out,” the premier said. He added it was not “a step back” and that it was necessary not to let “everything Victorians have sacrificed, everything we’ve given up, simply slip away.”
The delay was criticized by opposition politicians, business owners unhappy about the economic toll that the lockdown takes, and Victorians, who were looking forward to hearing good news from Andrews.
Michael O’Brien, the leader of the opposition in Victoria, accused the premier of moving the goalposts once again and called his decision “appalling”. The state’s prime business association, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the premier has dealt a “shattering blow” to the economy and that the situation resembled living in a time loop, “like Groundhog Day”.
Former Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the postponement, which was announced after a spectacular reduction in new Covid-19 infections, demonstrated a “paralysis in decision-making” on the part of the Andrews government.
While Melbourne will have to wait further, regional Victoria will see some easing of restrictions starting next week, Andrews also announced. Starting Wednesday, the state will see the reopening of gyms, indoor pools and food courts, provided they serve no more than 20 customers at a time.