The Victorian government is facing increasing pressure this morning to lift Melbourne’s lockdown amid a string of low case numbers in the state and as the city enters day 11 of its fourth lockdown.
All eyes will be on Monday’s numbers after officials in the state refused to budge on Sunday despite pressure from fed-up Victorians and business groups to end the lockdown early.
Victoria recorded four new positive local cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, including two in aged care, but the risks posed by the Delta variant are forcing officials to be cautious.
Acting Victorian premier James Merlino said lockdown is likely to run until midnight Thursday, citing the highly infectious Delta variant covid mutation which has struck 10 Victorians already.
Mr Merlino said the state is living in a “different environment” with the new variant compared to its lockdown last year.
“There’s a reason why public health is so concerned about the Delta variant,” he said. “It is much, much more infection than what we were dealing with last year.”
“The last thing we want to see is this variant of the virus getting out, and becoming uncontrollable,” he said.
“I want to get there as quickly as you do.”
Mystery still surrounds how the cluster began in West Melbourne with “health investigators” scouring sequencing results from labs across the country. The outbreak in West Melbourne has grown to 10 cases of the Delta variant with a primary school teacher the latest to test positive.
Mr Merlino said his “expectation” was by the end of lockdown on Thursday, “we’ll be in a position to have further easings of restrictions in regional Victoria and careful easing of restrictions in Melbourne.”
He went on to say the decision would be based on public health advice.
“We’ve just got to drive this thing to the ground.”
“We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing the public health advice that we receive a stop in I hate going into lockdown, like every single Victorian I want to be out of lockdown as quickly as possible, the way to do that is for people to get tested, for people if you are eligible to get your vaccination, for people to follow the rules.”
But the financial pressure is increasing day by day for both businesses and residents. A survey by Tenants Victoria showed 66 per cent of respondents said they were financially impacted by lockdown. An estimated average loss was $817.
Deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said lifting the lockdown was a “day by day proposition” but added that Thursday’s planned easing of restrictions, was “our expectation”.
“If we can, we will,” he said of it potentially lifting early.
Mr Cheng said health authorities are examining cases carefully and working with other labs to see if there is any further information that can be obtained from specimens regarding the state’s hunt for the delta variant outbreak.
Chief executive of the Australian Industry Group Innes Willox has called for the Victorian government to devise an immediate path out of lockdown to save the state’s businesses.
“This lockdown has been marked by exaggerated language and doomsday prophesies from Victoria’s health leaders that have not come to pass,” he said.
Currently, he says it’s costing the economy nearly $360 million.
Last week, Professor MacIntyre told the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas the variant spreading in Melbourne is “more transmissible” and “more contagious” and that it has a particular mutation that’s “more likely to make it more vaccine resistant than that strain, so that’s a big concern”.
“There’s more virus in the air, we know that SARS Covid-2 is airborne so an area where someone has been indoors might be more at risk with this particular virus.
“The biggest risk is breathing in the virus through contaminated air indoors, in settings that are poorly ventilated.
“The stakes have been raised with this variant because we know its more transmissible.”
“The pandemic is worse today than it was a year ago and there are new variants emerging regularly. They are particularly more transmissible and resistant to the vaccines we have available, to different degrees, so the stakes are much higher.”
text by Matt Young, news.com.au