As Prime Minister Scott Morrison tried on Friday, the state opposition and Victorian corporate groups tried to keep up pressure on the Prime Minister for a faster opening, a number of leading epidemiologists said Age This hospitality could safely be opened from Sunday.
However, the medical experts were more cautious about retailers, warning that shopping malls could pose a risk if they reopened fully. Professor James McCaw of Melbourne University said a trip to Chadstone could be as dangerous as visiting football.
Professor McCaw said shopping malls shouldn’t be places for people to socialize. “We need to encourage people to buy their goods and go,” he said.
“The strategy works – the strategy absolutely works,” said Andrews.
The decision-making process is expected to continue well into Saturday night to take advantage of the most accurate data, and Andrews said the changes announced on Sunday would fall into the “low risk” category.
The restrictions placed on outdoor social and family gatherings with the public health team are expected to be relaxed. The controversial travel limit of five kilometers will also be examined in detail and checked to see whether it can be safely increased to 20 kilometers.
Professor McCaw said it “makes sense” to go a larger radius but cautioned against “potentially bringing the virus outside of the subway”.
New figures on the “ring of steel” around the Melbourne subway, criticized as being lax, show that almost 1.9 million vehicles were stopped at the border with 1755 fines and 155 drivers were warned.
Mr Andrews said the government will place more weight on the number of “mysterious cases” – diagnoses of COVID where the source could not be found – than it does on the raw daily numbers.
On Friday, hopes rose that Shepparton, which reported three COVID cases related to the Chadstone-Frankston-Kilmore cluster on Tuesday, could avoid a significant outbreak after performing nearly 2,000 tests with no positive results.
The Prime Minister used a press conference on Friday to get Mr. Andrews to go “as far as possible” on Sunday.
Mr Morrison said the Melburnians “kept their side of the bargain” by adhering to strict lockdowns and suffered as a result.
State opposition leader Michael O’Brien backed his federal counterpart, saying Victoria would expect the prime minister to provide a clear plan for the lockdown.
“We’ve had some of the toughest locks in the world for so many months, and now it’s time to let us live safely again.” Mr. O’Brien said.
Technologically speaking, there was better news than Andrews said that QR codes, which can be scanned by pub or restaurant patrons’ cellphones as they enter a venue, would become an increasingly important contact tracer tool as Melbourne opens .
Companies are deploying QR technology across the greater Geelong area, including the Bellarine Peninsula, as well as Ballarat and Bendigo.
David Gandolfo of the Australian Small Business Council said Victoria’s second wave was not caused by retailers or small businesses, and advocated that some security be given to the sector.
Mr Gandolfo said small business owners needed time to buy stocks, to work out rosters and employees.
“People need a plan,” he said.
“If that’s not the case on Sunday, especially when the numbers have been so good and the effort people have made, then I think the people’s spirits will be broken.”
Paul Guerra, chairman of the board of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the retail and hospitality sectors want and expect good news on Sunday. Failure to find at least a clear path out of the closure is catastrophic.
“Businesses need security, and retail and hospitality in particular, need line of sight to have a really strong Christmas trading period,” Guerra said.
“We’ll be really concerned if that line of sight isn’t there because we know this will be disastrous news for business owners, mom and dad retailers, mother and dad hospitality owners.”
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Noel Towell is the state policy editor for The Age
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