Millions of Victorians have been forced to wait another day to learn whether the state’s gruelling lockdown will be lifted tomorrow night as planned.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley announced on Monday authorities are yet to ‘finalise’ whether the state’s fifth lockdown will end at 11.59pm on Tuesday.
It had been anticipated Premier Daniel Andrews would announce an end to the statewide stay-at-home orders after the 11 new Covid cases recorded on Monday were in quarantine throughout their infectious period.
But the premier was notably absent from the press conference, leaving residents in limbo for another 24 hours over whether restrictions will be eased on Wednesday.
‘As we made our position clear yesterday, we want to make sure that with restrictions ending tomorrow that we make that decision based on the most up to date and accurate of data and advice from our public health teams,’ Mr Foley told reporters.
Victorians have been forced to wait another 24 hours to learn whether the state’s lockdown will be lifted. Pictured: People line up at a testing clinic in Prahran, Melbourne, on Thursday
‘Nothing has yet been finalised but we are mindful of the need as soon as possible, as a decision has been made, to share that with the people of Victoria.
Despite the consecutive days of new infections only being identified in those already in isolation, Mr Foley said authorities were still concerned 22 cases had been recorded across the past 48 hours.
‘Public health officials take some comfort from the fact that over the weekend, the 22 locally acquired cases had all been quarantining for the entirety of their infectious period, but it is still 22 cases,’ he said.
‘When you reflect on where we’ve been over the journey of this last 18 months as we’ve dealt with reopening from outbreaks, 22 cases over two days is a significant figure. It’s not a risk that we take lightly but equally.
‘And we will make a decision based on the public health team’s decision, on the most up to date advice.’
The statewide lockdown was called on July 15 due to an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant, which originated from cases in NSW.
Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) said on Sunday lockdown was on track to end on Tuesday night
Victoria’s lockdown was meant to end after five days, but was extended for a week as the virus continued to spread in the community.
Mr Andrews on Sunday said he was confident the lockdown wouldn’t be extended again, citing the downward trend in the number of people in the community while infectious.
His comments came after Victoria recorded 11 new locally acquired Covid cases on Sunday, all of which were linked to known outbreaks and were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
‘These numbers are the trend that we wanted to see, these numbers are more than promising, but we just have to wait and see what comes through tomorrow and Tuesday to be certain that we can ease restrictions,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.
‘I will foreshadow, there will still be rules after midnight Tuesday, it’ll be important that we all follow them.’
The new infections bring the total number of active cases to 190 in the state, 17 of which are in hospital including two people in intensive care.
Victorian cabinet ministers and the public health team will hold discussions on Monday to map out the state’s new set of restrictions, but masks are expected to remain compulsory for some timee. Pictured: A woman walks with her dog on the Port Phillip fore shore on Saturday
FIND THE LATEST EXPOSURE SITES NEAR YOU
Victorian cabinet ministers and the public health team will meet on Monday to discuss the new set of restrictions.
Mr Andrews said on Sunday he is focused on removing the five reasons to stay at home statewide from midnight on Tuesday.
However, he cautioned that widespread restrictions would remain in place, with masks to be mandatory for a ‘long time’.
‘Masks are going to be a feature for a long time, until we get the maximum number of people through the vaccine,’ he said on Sunday.
Mr Andrews said research has shown masks were the ‘greatest contributing factor’ to the state beating its second wave last year, and would be vital to combatting the highly infectious Indian Delta strain.
While he said it was still too early to determine what businesses would be permitted to re-open, the premier hinted that schools were a main priority.
‘My aim is to have the five reasons to leave home off and much greater freedom of movement, for us to resume our economic recovery, and that is what we are after.
‘[But] its got to be done safe and, indeed, we want to get out kids back to school.’
Mr Andrews said he ‘hopes’ to remove the five reasons Victorians are allowed to leave home from midnight Tuesday. Pictured: People wearing face masks walk through Melbourne’s deserted streets on Thursday
Both NSW and Victoria saw thousands join anti-lockdown protests over the weekend (pictured in Melbourne on Saturday)
Meanwhile, health department sources have told The Herald Sun some of the restrictions that are tipped to remain in place until vaccination rates have drastically improved.
Policymakers and health officials are currently in favour of schoolchildren returning to the classroom this week with excursions, planned camps and events also set to be given the green light.
High level talks are already underway to open the doors of Victoria’s beloved hospitality venues with cafes, restaurants and bars looking likely to trade this week under the 4 person per sq/m rule with a cap of 50 patrons indoors.
Retail stores are also set to have the same restrictions, while outdoor community sports events will be capped at 100 people.
Under the new proposal face masks are expected to remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors as the highly contagious Indian Delta variant continues to wreak havoc north of the border.
One of the issues that could stand in Victoria’s way however is a potential rise in cases due to the anti-lockdown march which occurred in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday.
More than 1,000 people flooded the streets flouting stay-at-home orders to protest Covid restrictions, with many more taking to the streets in Covid-ravaged Sydney.
Mr Andrews slammed those who attended the anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne as ‘selfish’ as millions across the country are under stay-at-home orders due to Delta strain outbreaks
The demonstrators were seen abandoning face masks and disregarding social distancing, raising concerns the anti-lockdown rally could act as a super spreader for Covid-19.
Mr Andrews expressed his dismay at ‘selfish’ anti-lockdown protesters who gathered in Melbourne on Saturday but said he was reasonably confident it would not become a super-spreader event.
There are more than 22,000 people self-isolating across the state after being deemed close contacts of positive cases, while there are more than 380 exposure sites.
Although lockdown is set to be lifted, Mr Andrews warned the Delta variant was a ‘whole new enemy’ and would remain a threat even after restrictions are eased.
‘We have been running alongside this virus, now we have just got ahead of it,’ he said.
‘We have to stay ahead of it from now until Tuesday night and there after until we have everyone through the vaccine program.
‘This virus does not have a day off, it is unrelenting’.
VICTORIA’S NEW RESTRICTIONS AFTER LOCKDOWN ENDS
Health official say it’s ‘very likely’ the state’s lockdown will end as planned on Wednesday.
Major changes will likely include:
– Schools to reopen
– Cafes and restaurants open but with a cap of 50 people inside and 100 outside
– Retail to open with one person per 4sqm rule
– Outdoor community sport to restart with 100 person cap
– Masks to remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors
– The new restrictions will apply statewide, including in Melbourme