Premier Daniel Andrews has urged Victorians to stay the course, saying “there is no other way” and vaccinations are “the only ticket out of the pandemic” as Melbourne teeters on the edge.
The premier issued a statement late on Tuesday after a second day of violent anti-vaccination protests and as police brace for a third day of disruption after demonstrators promised to return.
Mr Andrews said the state, which has endured more lockdowns than any other, could not turn back now and that “acts of violence and disruption” would only serve to spread the virus.
“There is no excuse for the terrible behaviour we have seen in our city over the last two days,” said Mr Andrews.
“Acts of violence and disruption won’t result in one less case of Covid — in fact it only helps the virus to spread.
“For those who think violence is the answer, I ask that you think of your fellow Victorians — doing the right thing over many months, following the advice of our health experts.
“We have come too far to turn back now.
“Please spare a thought for our healthcare workers who are working such long hours looking after patients, many who are struggling to breathe.
“The more of us who get vaccinated, the fewer of us who will end up in hospital.
“It’s as simple as that.”
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Police have warned protesters not to repeat the chaos of the last two days in which mostly men dressed in hi-vis workwear took to the streets against mandatory vaccination in the construction sector.
“I implore you to stay home,” Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said in a late night press conference on Tuesday.
“Our tactics tomorrow will be different.”
Anger isn't going to make this pandemic end any quicker.
Acts of violence like we've seen in the city in the last two days isn't going to stop people ending up in ICU, or be any help to the nurses treating them.
Literally only one thing will – getting vaccinated.
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) September 21, 2021
The Ambulance Union pleaded with protesters to think of others.
“The fight against COVID19 is not in the street. For our health workers the fight is very real, very exhausting, very painful and very dangerous,” the union said in a statement on Tuesday night.
“You are thinking of yourself only. There has never been a more important time to match the selflessness of health workers, with your own.”
The state government has shut down the construction industry for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.
It said there are 337 cases directly linked to 154 construction sites.
Rebooting NSW construction
Meanwhile, construction in NSW will return to full speed next week, with hopes that community sport will be next in line to resume.
From next Monday, NSW will ease all capacity limits on construction sites while retaining the “four square metre” density rule.
The industry has been working at 50 per cent capacity, with vaccination requirements for workers from the 12 western and southwest Sydney local government areas of concern.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard also announced on Tuesday — the second day of school holidays — that kids in lockdown areas would be able to create a “friends bubble” of three, allowing them to visit each other’s homes.
“We’ve got to recognise the need for mental health and socialisation and the things young people do as part of growing up, but keep them safe,” Mr Hazzard said.
Outdoor gatherings of up to five fully vaccinated adults with their children have been permitted for the past week, and Mr Hazzard hinted community sport could soon resume as well.
One in 10 community sports clubs in Australia fear they will not survive beyond the pandemic, new research from the Australian Sports Foundation found, with lockdown and restrictions decimating the financial bottom line and volunteer numbers.
Mr Hazzard told reporters he is “very keen” to see community sport resume, with the transmission risk managed through COVID-safe plans, and was organising discussions between the sports minister and senior health officials.
“We’re going to facilitate that in the next few days and see what we can do to try and persuade the public health department,” he said.
“I would think we get there very soon.”
NSW reported 1022 new local cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, as another three regional areas were sent back into lockdown.
The Tweed, Byron and Kempsey council areas went into lockdown from Tuesday for seven days, after a coronavirus-infected essential worker flew from Sydney to Ballina on Saturday and was active in the community.
Ten deaths were also reported, taking the toll for the outbreak to 255.
Sit for an Artist
A new survey has detailed the devastating impact of COVID on visual artists such as painters, filmmakers and sculptors, with fears a whole generation could be lost.
Four in five visual artists earned less than $25,000 last financial year with half of those working in the field seeing their income fall, the research released on Wednesday by the National Association for the Visual Arts shows.
Artists saw sales slump by 72 per cent in 2020/21 amid COVID-19 lockdowns.
Meanwhile, 44 per cent of arts organisation workers had their hours reduced and more than a third lost contracts.
Launching a new campaign to encourage vaccination take-up to support the country’s creative recovery, the association’s Penelope Benton said the virus and successive lockdowns had decimated the visual arts sector.
“Art making has dropped by nearly 40 per cent as artists have had to find work in other areas to survive, and over half of our sector is concerned about the future,” Ms Benton said.
“The gap in the visual arts sector will be felt years, and we fear a generation of artists may be lost.”
Governmental funding support has largely excluded the visual arts sector due to ineligibility, she added.
“We need to reopen so artists can get back to work and start on the slow road to recovery.”
The idea behind the Sit For An Artist campaign is that rather than sitting for a portrait, sitting for a vaccine will accelerate the process by which artists can get back to work.