Scott Morrison on the mental health impact on Victorians of Dan Andrews’ coronavirus lockdown

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is ‘deeply concerned’ about the mental health consequences of Melbourne‘s tough Stage Four restrictions, which ease on Monday. 

In a joint statement issued on Sunday with Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt, the prime minister said he was concerned about the length of the lockdown.

‘As it stands this lockdown is already longer than that faced by residents in many cities around the world,’ the statement read.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured on Saturday in Adelaide at the SA Liberal Party AGM) issued a joint statement Sunday with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt urging Victoria's Labor Premier Daniel Andrews to lift restrictions quicker

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured on Saturday in Adelaide at the SA Liberal Party AGM) issued a joint statement Sunday with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt urging Victoria’s Labor Premier Daniel Andrews to lift restrictions quicker

The latest 14-day rolling average of new infections graph for Melbourne from website covid19data.com.au which shows why restrictions are lifting in Victoria

The latest 14-day rolling average of new infections graph for Melbourne from website covid19data.com.au which shows why restrictions are lifting in Victoria

‘We remain deeply concerned about the mental health impacts of a prolonged lock down on Melbourne residents.’

The prime minister put pressure on the Victorian premier to ease restrictions faster, saying NSW had done it with a ‘world-class contact tracing facility’.

‘We would support Victoria in reviewing the trigger of five and zero cases with regards to the third and last steps,’ the statement read.  

Melbourne residents have been subject to tough Stage Four restrictions since August 2.

The Federal Coalition Government has put increasing pressure on Victoria’s Labor Premier to ease restrictions for the sake of the economy, while Mr Andrews has refused to budge, saying his decisions were always based on medical advice.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pictured giving his daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday as he announced the lifting of some restrictions

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pictured giving his daily coronavirus briefing on Sunday as he announced the lifting of some restrictions

Chapel Street, Melbourne, is usually bustling. Pictured: a woman walks alone past an empty shop on the famous strip on September 6. Traders say the lockdowns are killing their business

Chapel Street, Melbourne, is usually bustling. Pictured: a woman walks alone past an empty shop on the famous strip on September 6. Traders say the lockdowns are killing their business

The prime minister has blasted Mr Andrews for his coronavirus response, saying with good contact tracing the state could have opened up sooner, frequently praising the NSW Liberal government’s contact tracing.

Mr Andrews in turn has said that there were just too many daily cases from unknown sources to effectively contact trace without lockdowns, pointing out NSW did not have a daily new infection rate from unknown community sources anything like Victoria did.

Victoria’s tough lockdown has rapidly reduced new infections, which fell from 686 on August 5 to just 16 yesterday.

Premier Andrews’ four-step plan out of lockdown is based on the reduction of daily numbers as measured by a rolling 14-day average of daily new cases.

People walking on the banks of Melbourne's Yarra River on Sunday. Residents will be relieved by the end of the curfew and the lifting of many restrictions on Monday

People walking on the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River on Sunday. Residents will be relieved by the end of the curfew and the lifting of many restrictions on Monday 

As of Sunday, the rolling average was down to 22.1, well below the trigger zone of 30 to 50 needed to move to Step Two of the coronavirus easing.

Melbourne’s 9pm to 5am curfew will be lifted on Monday.

An estimated 127,000 workers will be able to return to their jobs and childcare centres can reopen.

Outdoor gatherings of up to five people from two households will now be allowed, however Premier Andrews also announced a new $5,000 fine to punish any unlawful gatherings that flout the limits.

‘We are so close, so, so, so close to beating this thing and it is just not appropriate to be going to visit friends or gathering in car parks,’ he said on Sunday. 

The next step out of lockdown could come as early as October 19, well ahead of the original October 26 target.

‘We are ahead of schedule, we have made more progress than we hoped to make at this point in time,’ the premier said. 

‘We must wait and see how things unfold over the next three weeks.’ 

The trigger for lifting further restrictions will be solely dependent on reaching the target of a 14-day average of five cases per day or less, he said.

Prime Minister Morrison, however, said he wants that trigger to be reviewed and eased. 

Victoria recorded 16 new cases on Sunday of which 15 are known and only one is under investigation.

Two more people died bringing the state’s death toll to 784.

The latest 14-day rolling average of new infections graph for Melbourne from website covid19data.com.au which shows why restrictions are lifting

The latest 14-day rolling average of new infections graph for Melbourne from website covid19data.com.au which shows why restrictions are lifting

Total cases in Victoria reached 20,145 on Sunday night of which 18,754 were from metropolitan Melbourne.

Victoria has contributed the vast majority of Australia’s 27,040 total cases.    

Small business traders from the Chapel Street Precinct Association (CSPA) criticised Mr Andrews’ restriction-lifting timetable on Sunday saying it was a disappointment.

‘It failed to address the elephant in the room – how businesses can survive without a cent for more harrowing weeks,’ said Chrissie Maus, CSPA general manager in a release on Sunday.  

‘There has been this nervous exhaustion in the air. So many business leaders are experiencing an increase in mental health issues (such as anxiety) and are on the verge of burnout,’ said Ms Maus, echoing the Prime Minister’s statement in a media release on the same day.

CSPA executive chair Justin O’Donnell called on the Andrews Government to restart the local economy now.

‘Our businesses have been ready for some time now with clear and effective COVIDsafe plans … surely we can at last reopen our businesses, even if there are travel restrictions in place,’ he said.

‘At least let us open to locals so we can all get back out and support them.’

Mr Andrews has previously said he would be guided by medical advice so as to avoid the threat of another lockdown which would be even more devastating to business than taking tough measures now. 

KEY DATES 

  * September 14 to September 27 – stage four lockdown for Melbourne with some changes, including the curfew moving back an hour to 9pm.

* September 27 – NSW, Queensland and WA will start taking more international arrivals.

* September 28 – Melbourne’s 9pm to 5am curfew repealed, 127,000 people can return to work, childcare reopens and outdoor gatherings of up to five from two households are permitted among other rule changes.

* October 1 – Residents of Byron Shire, Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley including Casino and Evans Head, Glen Innes and 41 other NSW postcodes will be added to the Queensland-NSW border bubble.

* October 5 – VCE and VCAL students back at school for tests

* October 12 – Melbourne primary school students to return to on-site learning

* October 26 – Tasmania’s state of emergency due to expire. In Melbourne, the overnight curfew will be dropped if – over the previous fortnight – the average number of new cases falls below five and there are fewer than five cases from an unknown source.

* November – Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry report due.

* November 23 – If there are no new cases for 14 days in Melbourne, the city will move to the ‘last step’. That includes all retail shops opening, public gatherings of up to 50 people allowed outdoors, and up to 20 visitors at a time allowed into a home. 

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