After health authorities in Victoria quietly extended the state of emergency for the 17th time since the pandemic began, doubts have been raised over when Melbourne’s lockdown will actually end.
On Tuesday, Victoria’s under fire Labor government signed off to extend its powers for another four weeks – meaning the Andrews regime can hold almost seven million Australians in lockdown until July 1.
The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn’t mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so if it sees fit.
On Thursday, when the lockdown is due to end, the government could either decide to extend it for another week – or to ease restrictions as it did for regional Victoria.
The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn’t necessarily mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so
Health Minister Martin Foley made the decision after holding talks with Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton (pictured), who has been described by senior figures in the Victorian government as a ‘catastrophist’
The Andrews Government first brought in the state of emergency on March 16, 2020
Greater Melbourne remains in lockdown with residents and businesses unhappy politicians are sitting back and letting health officers decide what will be done
Victoria recorded five new local infections on Saturday, bringing the state’s outbreak to 70 cases and sparking fears Melbourne’s Stage 3 lockdown will be extended for a second consecutive time.
Health Minister Martin Foley made the decision to extend the state of emergency after holding talks with Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, who has been described by senior figures in the Victorian government as a ‘catastrophist’.
The Andrews Government, currently helmed by Acting Premier James Merlino, first brought in the state of emergency on March 16, 2020.
It was initially set to remain in place for four weeks, but has since been extended 17 times.
The state emergency was signed off to ‘assist with measures designed to ‘flatten the curve’ of Covid-19 and give our health system the best chance of managing the virus’, Mr Andrews – who is currently on medical leave – said last year.
The powers of the order include ‘detaining people, restricting movement and preventing entry to premises’, through lockdowns, mandatory mask wearing and hotel quarantine.
Mr Foley remained tight lipped about when a decision will be made on extending the state’s lockdown.
‘There is no simple answer,’ he said, when asked about a potential date.
‘Clearly, as we approach next Thursday, the kind of facts we have been going through here, the evidence, what cases (we are) aware (of), either linked or unlinked, have we got the support around them.
‘How we got the evidence that Professor Lewin was talking about, as to knowing where they’ve come from.’
Melbourne is now in its second week of strict lockdown, with Mr Foley non-committal about planned easing of restrictions on June 10.
Three of the five are direct primary close contacts of existing cases and have been in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
The remaining two are ‘unlinked’ to any known cases and were infectious in the community.
Melbourne is now in its second week of strict lockdown, with Mr Foley non-committal about planned easing of restrictions on June 10
Victoria recorded five new local infections on Saturday, bringing the state’s outbreak to 70 cases
One of the mystery cases had been a regular visitor to Craigieburn Central shopping centre and came forward as a result of efforts to test heavily in the area.
Three of the five new cases linked to primary close contacts include two connected to the families with the Delta virus strain, bringing that cluster to nine.
A child of one of the families has tested positive, as well as an adult family friend.
The presence of this strain, which has caused devastation in the UK and India, is of concern to authorities because it is unknown how the family contracted it.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Victorians continued to protest the government’s lockdown measures in the CBD.
Police arrested two people and handed out 16 fines for failing to provide names and addresses and travelling outside 10km limits. Three people were fined for not wearing a mask.
The entire state was first locked down at the end of May for seven days – due to end at the start of winter on June 3 – but just one day before residents planned to return to their semi-normal lives, the government announced Greater Melbourne would be forced to stay locked inside their houses for an additional seven days.
The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn’t mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so
With the new Indian ‘Delta’ variant that has wreaked havoc amongst a billion-strong population overseas being detected in the state, residents fear the leading health officers may extend the dreaded lockdown again (pictured in Melbourne)
With the new Indian ‘Delta’ variant that has wreaked havoc amongst a billion-strong population overseas being detected in the state, residents fear the leading health officers may extend the dreaded lockdown again.
This is despite the highest number of infections on a single day in the latest outbreak, which started on May 4, being 12 – with every other day reporting total community transmission of between three to six cases despite tens of thousands of tests.
During Victoria’s emergency lockdown meeting almost two weeks ago Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – the North Face-wearing voice of reason throughout the state’s most gruelling 2020 lockdown – was nowhere to be seen, either in person or on Zoom, when it was decided that drastic measures would need to be taken.
As he is still recovering from a spinal injury, Mr Andrews had spoken to Acting Premier James Merlino earlier that day and was waiting for more updates after the meeting concluded.
Instead it was Prof Sutton who led the fast-paced one hour discussion before it was decided the state would be locked down the following day when cases were linked to the infectious Indian Kappa variant.
The news was understandably a disappointment for the business sector, who were never consulted.
TIMELINE TO DISASTER
May 3: An infected guest staying in the adjacent room of a Wollert man infects him as he leaves a South Australian hotel bound for Melbourne.
May 7: Melbourne city restaurant the Curry Vault is officially listed as a tier 1 public exposure site six days after the man had dined at the venue.
May 11: A Woolworths supermarket in Epping, in Melbourne’s north-west, is notified the infected person who had left SA quarantine had visited the store three days earlier.
May 22: A banking transaction is blamed for Victorian health authorities listing the wrong supermarket – it should have been Woolworths Epping North.
May 27: The Victorian government announces a seven-day lockdown in a bid to curb the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak.
May 28: Victoria finally introduces a single mandatory QR code tracking system.
May 31: Arcare Maidstone residents are locked down and placed into self-isolation after a female healthcare worker at the facility tested positive.
June 3: Melbourne’s week long lockdown is extended a further week.