NSW has declined to criticise the Victorian government’s decision to plunge up to six million people into a Stage 4 shutdown – although Premier Gladys Berejiklian says “we avoid lockdown at all costs”.
Australian Retailers Association’s Paul Zahra told The New Daily on Monday the cost Victoria’s snap lockdown would be “over a billion dollars in terms of lost retail trade” and was growing by the day.
“It would have been one of the busiest weekends of the year for local businesses, with Lunar New Year celebrations and Valentine’s Day reservations cancelled. Instead, a lot of businesses are out of pocket and have had to dump fresh produce.
“We certainly hope this lockdown doesn’t go on for longer than it needs to. Victorian retailers have had enough of it, given the hellish 12 months they’ve been through,” he said.
Earlier, Ms Berejiklian said it was better to “avoid a lockdown at all costs, avoid closing our borders, allow our citizens as much freedom as we can while we’re managing the virus”.
Mr Zahra agreed, calling for national consistency on pandemic rules.
“It’s time to have consistency from state and territory governments when it comes to COVID restriction,” he said.
“At the moment, businesses are at the mercy of the different approaches from the various premiers, with very little planning time around what the latest restrictions mean.”
Earlier on Monday, federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg took another veiled swipe at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, saying NSW was the “gold standard” in managing virus outbreaks.
“No doubt Victoria has made improvements after the devastating second wave, but NSW is the gold standard, because they haven’t had a statewide lockdown, even though they have had clusters of cases, for example, in the Northern Beaches,” Mr Frydenberg told Nine’s Today Show.
“Every state should learn from NSW.”
Victorians once again fell into line and stayed home for a third day in a row on Monday, as Mr Andrews remained tight-lipped about when restrictions would be eased.
Victoria had one new local COVID-19 case on Monday, a female hospital worker who was tested multiple times in recent days. She is connected with the worrying quarantine leak from the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.
Psychiatric wards at two Melbourne major hospitals where the woman worked have been locked down after her positive test.
Mr Andrews said Victoria was “well-placed”, with just one case from more than 25,000 tests on Sunday. But he said it was too early say he would definitely to lift the lockdown order at midnight on Wednesday.
A total of 17 people linked to the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn have now tested positive for COVID-19.
Mr Andrews said some of the cases were not in the original “net” cast by authorities.
“This just confirms the advice from the CHO to me and cabinet, to have this circuit-breaker, was the right call and remains the right call,” he said.
Mr Andrews said he could not confirm the lockdown would end as planned on Wednesday.
“I’ve never been one to try to make bold predictions. We just have to take this one hour at a time, one day at a time,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is a promising start, these last three days, and I am proud of all Victorians for the hard work that they’ve put in.”
Both Mr Andrews and chief health officer Brett Sutton indicated they wanted to see more data before deciding on the ultimate length of the lockdown.
Meanwhile, NSW confirmed a 29th consecutive day without local virus infections on Monday.
Ms Berejiklian said she would continue to treat broad lockdowns as a last resort.
“Certain states have a way of doing things and NSW has a way of doing things. I think the way we dealt with the northern beaches cluster is the way NSW tends to deal with these issues,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I’m not willing to say one system or one way of doing things is better than another, but what we have done in NSW to this point has worked well for us.”
Ms Berejiklian also reiterated her stance that hotel quarantine workers should be the first Australians to get COVID-19 vaccines. Jabs will start in Australia next Monday, following the arrival of the first Pfizer shipment in Sydney on Monday.