News Coronavirus Victorian Premier rejects suggestions lockdown could last weeks

Victorian Premier rejects suggestions lockdown could last weeks

One new case: Daniel Andrews addresses the media on Saturday. Photo: AAP
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The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has praised Victorians’ response to the snap five-day lockdown, rejecting suggestions it could last for weeks, but saying there were no guarantees.

Mr Andrews said recent testing had identified only one new case and he urged people to avoid speculation or protests against the move.

“I think people should try, as best they can, to encourage people to [get information] based in facts,” the Premier said.  “The facts are this is a precautionary approach, one that is based on the best help advice.”

Victoria entered a third lockdown at 11.59pm on Friday after the UK variant of the virus escaped quarantine at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn.

The outbreak now tallies at least 13 cases, including a woman who may have worked at an airport cafe while infectious.

There are 996 known primary close contacts associated with the known cases with test results expected to come through by Monday.

The single additional positive case recorded on Saturday – a man in his 30s – is in isolation, as well as 38 of his primary close contacts.

Of 12 co-workers of an infected worker at Brunetti’s cafe at Melbourne airport, 11 have returned negative test results, which the premier said was encouraging. The one remaining test result is yet to come through.

Mr Andrews defended the need for a third lockdown, saying he knew a lot of people would be hurting but that it was the right thing to do.

“Victorians know what to do to beat this virus and I am confident we will do that again,” Mr Andrews said.

And I just say to anybody who thinks that the law does not apply to them and that they can be off protesting or doing whatever else, all that potentially does is spread the virus and a protest is not the same as a vaccine.

“It just does not work so let’s not put police in a difficult position. That’s all of us try our very best to follow these series of rules for a short period of time so that hopefully we can keep getting those negative tests coming through and put this behind us.”

“We can’t pretend it is over just because we want it to be. As desperately keen as we all are for it all to be over, I can’t deny the evidence. I can’t go shopping for the advice that I like. I can’t ignore advice. You know, you’ve got to make the tough calls and that is just the job I have got.

“This is not a popularity contest, it is a pandemic … Last thing any Victorian wants, and regardless of their views on me, is a premier that is shopping around for advice that suits their political purposes. That is not what we are in, we are in a pandemic.

Victorian testing commander Jeroen Weimar said there had been more than 20,000 tests on Friday, with 8500 negative results and the rest being processed. He urged people to get tested, saying wait times were only about one hour at most centres.

The one positive case was a contact of a Quarantine Victoria worker.

“Late yesterday, we returned and found a positive result of a man in his 30s and the Point Cook area,” Mr Weimar said. “He is a social contact of one of our CQV Staff members, and we are continuing to investigate the full extent of those contact on that worker continues.”

“Yesterday we discussed a number of lines of inquiry we were actively following up, the most important and concerning was the cafe at the airport, Brunetti’s [at Melbourne airport].

“All 12 staff have been tested and 11 are negative. We have one more test result we are waiting on. That will come through later today. An encouraging start.

“We also have 38 customers of Brunetti’s cafe contacted, we got the details from them yesterday, all followed up last night and this morning.

Mr Andrews said test and trace workers were getting through their required work.

“We are testing people and getting many pleasing test results. Part of that abundance of caution is the assumption, there are cases out there that we don’t know about, and they were not necessarily caught up in the net.

“We said we didn’t know about it. It’s out there in the community more broadly. We have to assume that has happened. It’s not just an assumption, but we know this is moving really, really fast. However, all my advice, this strategy is the right thing to do. I urge Victorians to stick together.”

“We will be here briefing you every day. There is no cause for anyone to be speculating about that. The advice remains the same to me. This is an important thing for us to do. It’s exactly what we need to do, a 5-day
circuit breaker.”

On Friday night the government announced a pause on all international passenger flights, excluding those already in transit, while there was also bizarre scenes at the Australian Open where tennis crowds were forced to leave midway through matches when the lockdown came into effect at midnight.

Mr Andrews said on Friday that there needed to be a “cold, hard discussion” about reducing the number of travellers returning to Australia from overseas.

The Victorian weekly cap had been set to lift from 1210 to 1310 overseas arrivals.

Mr Andrews asked whether there should be a “much smaller program” of hotel quarantine that was “based on compassionate grounds” and said the more infectious UK variant meant the “game (had) changed”.

Chief medical officer says returnees must keep arriving

In response, Australia’s chief medical officer said on Saturday reiterated “vulnerable” Australians cannot be left to languish overseas.

Paul Kelly said he and his state-based counterparts were constantly discussing hotel quarantine protocols and safeguards.

He added the federal government could not ignore Australians stuck overseas for months on end, many of whom already unable to secure flights home.

“The states and territories themselves at a National Cabinet meeting very early on said it should be the states and territories – that is where the public health system is run, (they) have the various staff that are needed for this type of exercise,” Prof Kelly told reporters on Saturday.

“(As to) whether we should be taking fewer people home, I would say we do have vulnerable Australians overseas, the Australian government does has a responsibility to Australians overseas and for those who are vulnerable and really desperate to come home, we need to factor that in.”

On Friday evening, Victoria announced a pause on international passenger flights from Saturday, excluding those already in transit. The Victorian weekly cap had been set to lift from 1210 to 1310 overseas arrivals.

Prof Kelly said quarantine systems were complex but mostly effective.

“We have had a very small number of breaches (nationally) but of course we can always learn from what happens,” he said.

“That continuous quality improvement approach is what we are taking.”

The virus has escaped from hotel quarantine in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide in recent months.

The Melbourne outbreak can be traced back to a family of three who quarantined at the Holiday Inn and are believed to have been infected overseas.

Elsewhere, NSW and Queensland on Saturday both reported no new local cases in their respective 24-hour reporting windows. Both states reported two new cases in travellers in hotel quarantine.

Victorian visitors to NSW from Saturday will be obliged to follow their home state’s “stay at home” orders. This does not apply to residents of NSW border communities unless they have visited Greater Melbourne.

But NSW has strongly advised its residents to avoid non-essential travel to Victoria.

Tasmania, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have closed their borders to Victorian travellers.

Melbourne-based psychologist Dervla Loughnane said there would be a toll on mental health, with the number of calls for help steadily rising over the past few days.

Melbourne’s second lockdown kicked off on July 9, and did not end until late October.

Even once the state emerged from the 15-week strict lockdown, there were limits on in-home gatherings and face masks had to be worn outside.

-with AAP