Victorians trapped in the midst of its fourth lockdown disaster are bracing for more pain after enduring a week of lies and blunders from their overbearing government.
On Friday, the state’s health bureaucrats admitted they misled suffering Victorians with claims the latest Indian ‘Kappa’ variant of Covid – B.1.617.1 – was an ‘absolute beast’ that had infected Melburnians was akin to the measles virus.
Measles, with a reproduction number of between 12 and 18, turns out to be significantly more infectious, but the lockdown damage has been done, with the mental anguish suffered by children likely to impact Victorians for generations.
As the Victorian Government was again accused by the many in the scientific community of blatant ‘scaremongering’, Acting Premier James Merlino was forced to admit two ‘stranger to stranger’ transmissions that prompted the inflammatory language had not actually occurred.
The two cases had been the thrust behind his announcement on Wednesday that Melburnians would be locked up for another week.
The science community smelt a rat the instant the news broke, with leading infectious disease experts publicly denouncing the inflammatory use of the word ‘beast’ by Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton.
Daily Mail Australia’s efforts to obtain simple answers from the State Government – to inform readers throughout Victoria and indeed Australia – have now been ignored for two days running.
Victoria only implemented a single, state-wide QR code system last Friday – after lockdown
People wait in a line outside of the Foodbank pop up store in Melbourne on Friday
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino has continued to blame Victorians for their plight
University of Melbourne Professor James McCaw, who is a member of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee that advises the national cabinet immediately called out the comment.
‘There is no epidemiological evidence that this virus spreads faster,’ Professor McCaw told The Age’s Chip Le Grand.
‘There is no clear reason to think this virus is spreading in different ways.’
Now, after the ‘Kappa’ variant beast panic, Victorians are on edge and preparing for the fear-mongering language from the lockdown-loving health bureaucrats to ramp up again following revelations three children and four adults were infected by the Indian ‘Delta’ variant.
Since Victoria’s very first lockdown more than a year ago, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his government have been at pains to assert all of its lockdown decisions are based on ‘the science’.
But experts have told Daily Mail Australia the science the Andrews Government is using is not only blatantly flawed, it is based on testing technology that it knows could not only be better, but faster.
It has since been revealed an expert panel on Thursday ruled the ‘beast cases’ – a woman who was said to have caught the virus at a display home in Mickleham and a man allegedly infected while dining outdoors at the Brighton Beach Hotel – were ‘false positives’.
Sections of the science community have long advised both federal and state governments to approve rapid antigen tests for the general community alongside its current polymerase chain reaction tests.
Such tests, which can be bought over the counter in the United States and United Kingdom, could have quickly identified potential carriers and avoided another lockdown, they argue.
While diagnostic companies have received approval to use the tests at an industrial level in Australia, health authorities refuse to grant approval outside of the workplace.
Premier Daniel Andrews hasn’t been on deck since March after injuring his back
Police check details of a delivery rider in Melbourne on Thursday as Melbourne’s hard lockdown continues
People wait in line to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in Melbourne on May 3. They were later blamed for not getting vaccinated fast enough
Melbourne on Friday continues to remain a ghost town
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.
An expert in the field, who asked to remain anonymous due to complications with the Therapeutic Goods Act, told Daily Mail Australia the tests have the capacity to quickly identify carriers of the virus, which could be used to rapidly quarantine infected individuals rather than locking down millions of people.
The cost to the Australian taxpayer and Medicare would be between $15 and $20 per test rather than $180 per PCR test.
Those in the diagnostic field believe the tests have been shunned by Australia’s top medical advisers out of sheer bloody-mindedness.
‘They’ve all come out of the pathology labs and they see pathology as the gold standard and they’re not very open to change,’ the source said.
‘I don’t think it’s corruption, I think they’re set in their ways. The government are taking the advice, the problem is they’re only getting the advice from one group. There’s not enough diversity or conversation. There’s not enough opinions.’
On Friday, the scaremongering from Victoria’s health officials continued with claims the highly infectious Delta strain – that spread quickly through India – had been detected among four cases in the past 24 hours.
Melburnians, who face at least another week in lockdown, might feel justified in treating the news with some scepticism.
While its accepted the initial outbreak of the Indian strain entered Victoria via a South Australian quarantine bungle, its spread throughout Melbourne exposed damning flaws and arrogance by its Labor state government.
On May 11, a Woolworths supermarket in Epping, in Melbourne’s north-west, was notified the infected person who had left SA quarantine had visited the store three days earlier.
Pigeons are seen outside of the Victorian State Library in Melbourne on Friday as people remain locked away at home
Healthcare workers transport a person into a patient transport vehicle at the Arcare Aged Care facility
THE CASE FOR RAPID ANTIGEN TESTING
Rapid tests have been extremely effective globally as a mechanism for testing and managing COVID.
By running rapid antigen and rapid antibody tests in parallel, patients understand after 15 minutes with a high degree of accuracy whether they have or have had the virus.
Australian governments continue to oppose any other form of testing and maintain sole reliance on PCR testing as the only mechanism and tool to determine whether someone has Covid.
PCR tests can take between 18 and 36 hours to return from the lab depending on the capacity and workload of the facility.
Experts claim the slow time lag for PCR results renders them unsuitable for the logistics of travel, entering large venues for sports/live music events, visiting relatives in aged care facilities and for mass ground transport.
‘Rapid antigen tests have a validated sensitivity of 97 percent, comparable to the “gold standard” PCR test in the low to mid 90 percent range,’ an expert in the diagnostics field told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.
‘Depending on the number of cycles the PCR tests are conducted over, they will detect not just active infection but remnants of COVID fragments from possible past infection, hence the large number of false positives seen with PCR testing around the world.’
The rapid antigen tests were used at Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory up until only a few weeks ago when they were dumped exclusively for PCR tests.
The facility’s medical director, Di Stephens, claimed the rapid tests did not have the sensitivity and specificity to pick up the people that had Covid and also had returned false positives.
The Victorian Government was forced to admit its contact tracing team ‘fell down’ by taking almost two weeks to realise they had identified the wrong Woolworths store as a COVID hotspot – it should have been Woolworths Epping North.
It was a mistake blithely deflected by Professor Sutton because they found no evidence anyone else had been infected over the error.
Melbourne city restaurant the Curry Vault had been officially listed as a tier 1 public exposure site six days after the man had dined at the venue on May 7.
Even with the virus back in the wild, Victorians continued to carry on as usual convinced they had effectively eradicated it from the community.
This was a state that had already been through a long and punishing lockdown in 2020 due to quarantine breaches, watched its government spend millions on an inquiry into what went wrong, and then endured a third lockdown in February.
Victorians had been assured their contact tracing had been ‘gold standard’ after the Andrews Government received a rocket from Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September.
Back then, the Prime Minister had begged Victoria to replicate NSW contact tracers, which had enabled that state to suppress six outbreaks without ever resorting to the kind of strict lockdowns Victoria had repeatedly fallen back on.
NSW, which was already ahead of the curve in regards to QR code check-ins, implemented a mandatory QR code system on January 1 this year.
It would be five long months – and two more lockdowns – before Victoria would do likewise.
On May 27, with Victoria’s fourth lockdown announced, the people were blamed by their government yet again for their plight.
‘We would not be in this position that we are today, this necessary and difficult position, if our vaccination rates were much higher than they are right now,’ Acting Premier James Merlino said.
It was the very same day, Professor Brett Sutton would take to Twitter to bleat about the plight of the ‘mental wellbeing’ of his contact tracers, who had rightfully been questioned about their role in the latest lockdown.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton hit social media to complain about the mental health of his contact tracers
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s tweet on May 27
Days later it would be revealed the virus had infiltrated an aged care facility in Melbourne’s west.
Professor Sutton still cannot explain to Victorians how Covid had got into its aged care homes – the very people ordinary Victorians are told they are protecting through lockdowns.
Vision of an elderly woman being carted out of Arcare Aged Care in Maidstone on Monday rekindled horrific memories of last year where hundreds died in Victorian aged care facilities.
A worker, who was found to be infected with the Indian variant of the virus, had brought it into the home and passed it on.
She had been allowed to work at multiple facilities despite the obvious threat to the elderly.
Days later, an 89-year-old man was identified as the fifth person connected to the Arcare facility to contract the virus.
The resident had been fully vaccinated, but only received his second dose on Monday after a rollout of second doses of the vaccine were brought forward to this week after the positive case.
The fact Victoria’s most vulnerable had failed to be fully vaccinated rubbed salt into the wounds of Victorians who had been chastised by the acting premier for failing to ‘get the jab’ fast enough.
On Thursday, as Melburnians persisted with attempts to get vaccinated, calls to the government hotline were simply cut-off after being mocked by a brief automated message.
‘Due to a high volume of calls, we cannot assist you,’ the voice said.
Victoria’s vaccine booking hotline went live and then vanished never to be seen again
Restaurant furniture is seen left outside of a business along Lygon Street in Melbourne on Thursday. It was once a busting spot for diners
Meanwhile, north of the border in New South Wales, those wanting to get the jab can obtain one akin to a simple click and collect.
Victorians were given false hope that they too might be able to book a vaccine appointment online after a Victorian Government booking system went live on Saturday night.
But both the new number and the existing COVID-19 hotline immediately went into melt down as people aged 40 to 49 suddenly became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Health officials would later declare Victoria’s online vaccine booking system had accidentally gone live, leaving hundreds in the lurch.
The state government had purchased the system from Microsoft in mid-January for a whopping $6million.
On announcing the deal, it had been lauded for being ‘fine-tuned’ for Victorian use.
Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier labelled the website a dud, telling Daily Mail Australia tech experts believed it ‘wasn’t fit for purpose’.
As Melburnians enter another week of misery, Daily Mail Australia can reveal the full mental anguish of children unable to attend school yet again.
Even as the government announced it would allow VCE students back into the classroom next week, it had initially planned to keep children with special needs trapped at home before an eleventh-hour backflip.
One Melbourne mum, who did not wish to be named, told Daily Mail Australia her autistic child had been chewing his arm due to the stress of being kept at home
One Melbourne mum, who did not wish to be named, told Daily Mail Australia her autistic child had been chewing his arm due to the stress of being kept at home.
‘Children who have differing abilities and attend special schools often don’t have the capacity to understand why they can’t go to school which can cause extreme behaviours such as self harm and meltdowns,’ she said.
The deteriorating mental health of ordinary Victorians, who have either lost their businesses or are unable to provide for their families, is once again expected to cause a surge in domestic violence incidents and suicides.
National Homeless Collective founder Donna Stolzenberg told Daily Mail Australia the latest lockdown was having a devastating effect in the community .
‘We still have families who are forced to isolate and are desperate for nappies and formula for their children. We have families who haven’t been able to access basic hygiene items such as soap and toothpaste,’ she said.
‘The mental health and anguish experienced by individuals who feel they have failed their family yet again can be insurmountable. The guilt and shame at not being able to provide for their children causes ongoing psychological effects and feelings of shame and failure.’
MENTAL HEALTH OF CONTACT TRACERS VS EVERYONE ELSE
National Homeless Collective founder Donna Stolzenberg said charity workers had felt the strain too.
‘Once again it is the small grass roots charities who feel the pressure trying to provide for hundreds of families with no government funding,’ she said.
‘The community has donation fatigue and the financial support just isn’t there anymore.’
‘Everyone is worried that it might be them next who falls into sudden poverty so they are less likely to part with even the smallest amount to help others.
‘Charities are then left with the cruel task of deciding which family won’t get to feed their children that day.’
‘Many migrant families have no one else to rely on and the language barrier means they’re less likely to be able to source help from community groups.’
‘They’re likely to be living in crowded dwellings which means that when one person becomes a close contact or has visited a know covid site the entire family must isolate.
‘We saw this very same problem with the 2020 lock down and it is incredibly frustrating that we’re going through it again. Thousands of people are reaching out for support but there is even less support to give them. ‘