The federal Treasurer has launched a furious broadside at “bloody-minded” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for his cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Josh Frydenberg is furious that Mr Andrews has not gone further in reopening the state, given the low number of new infections.
Victoria had four more cases on Monday, its sixth day in single figures. There was also another fatality, a man in his 90s.
Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average of new infections is down to 7.2, while it is 0.5 in regional Victoria. The city has also had 15 mystery cases in the past fortnight, and there are none in country areas.
Elsewhere, NSW reported its first day in nearly a fortnight without locally acquired infections on Monday. There were four cases in returned overseas travellers.
NSW’s last day without community transmission of the virus was October 6.
It came as Victorians enjoyed their first day of some limited freedoms. Mr Andrews announced the move on Sunday, but many were unhappy he did not go far enough.
Melburnians can now travel 25 kilometres from home, and there is no limit on time spent outdoors.
Outdoor gatherings have also increased from five people to 10 from two households, while facilities such as skate parks, golf courses and tennis courts have reopened.
Melburnians are also be able to get a haircut, see an allied health professional, renovate their home, wash their car and bid at an auction, though strict safety protocols remain.
But it’s not enough for Mr Frydenberg, who accused Mr Andrews of making it up as he goes and demonstrating a callous indifference towards small business owners.
“The bloody-mindedness is unforgivable,” the Treasurer said on Monday.
“There’s been a callous indifference in Victoria from the government to the loss of jobs and to the plight of small business.”
Mr Frydenberg warned 1000 jobs would be lost each and every day the state remained in lockdown.
But Mr Andrews accused Mr Frydenberg of playing politics in the middle of the pandemic.
“All he does is play politics, every day, and I just don’t think that is fair and I think Victorians are sick of it. Victorians want their family protected, they wanted their health issue dealt with so we can open up,” he said.
“In terms of convincing the Commonwealth government, I would have thought I would not have to convince them that Victorians are Australians as well.”
Virus rules have been relaxed further in regional Victoria. Outside Melbourne, up to two people plus dependents can now visit homes once a day, while hospitality venues can increase their capacity to 70 people outside and 40 people inside.
The boost to indoor dining does not apply in the regional city of Shepparton, where there was an outbreak of the coronavirus last week. After a mass boost to local testing, that cluster remains at three infections but Shepparton residents will have wait to enjoy more indoor dining at hospitality venues.
Mr Andrews said that would allow day 11 virus testing to confirm the outbreak had been contained.
“These matters will be reviewed on the weekend and it would be my hope and my expectation that we can have Shepparton assume those new settings … as soon as possible, and hopefully this coming weekend,” he said.
The checkpoints run by Victoria Police and the Australian Defence Force that separate metropolitan Melbourne from regional Victoria – the so-called “ring of steel” – also remain.
Melbourne is take its next steps on November 2, with hospitality venues be able to seat 50 people outside and 20 people inside, while retail and beauty and personal care services can resume.
People will be allowed to host a maximum of two people plus dependents at their homes once a day.
Mr Andrews has signalled that step could be brought forward, depending on this week’s case numbers across Victoria.
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But many industry groups are not impressed.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said it was an “an inexplicable and unacceptable delay”.
“There is no sound reason to continue the restrictions on business, especially with case numbers clearly on a downward trajectory,” she said.
The Australian Industry Group’s Victorian head Tim Piper said businesses and Victorians expected more.
“There is still no long-term coherent plan to rebuild a shattered Victorian economy,” Mr Piper said.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said restrictions should have been eased further, especially with respect to small businesses.
The state’s death toll from the virus has risen to 817, while the national figure is 905.