“We may need to take further steps”: Victoria foreshadows tougher restrictions for businesses

Regional Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. AAP/David Crosling.

Victorian health officials are working through options to further tighten COVID-19 restrictions, as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warns coronavirus transmission rates remain too high to consider opening the state up again.

In his strongest indication yet that Victoria may need to step up its response to a second wave of coronavirus infections, Andrews said during a press conference on Friday that “detailed analysis” is underway to determine whether new measures are required.

“We have data that marks the halfway point of the six weeks, we have numbers that are too high, we have community [transmission] that is too high, and we need to do that detailed analysis and potentially take further steps beyond the current framework,” Andrews said.

Victoria recorded 627 new coronavirus cases on Friday after lodging a record 723 yesterday; numbers that are dashing hopes that the six-week time frame for Melbourne’s existing lockdown will be maintained.

“We could not open up with these numbers, we could not open up with significantly less than these numbers,” Andrews said.

“We may need to take further steps.”

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said medical experts are exploring a possible step-up in restrictions, and will consider whether restrictions similar to New Zealand’s ‘stage four lockdown’ would effectively curb the virus.

“There are really significant consequences for what you do, in terms of increased restrictions. It has to be focused on what the data tells us about where transmission might be occurring,” he said.

“It may be the case that an intervention in a certain area will make a difference. It may also be the case that we look at restrictions in an area that are not a driver of transmission and that would be an unfortunate impost and unfortunate consequences for every who might be involved there.”

Andrews said earlier this week that an order requiring all Victorians to wear face masks or coverings outside their homes was “effectively stage four”, but further restrictions may involve forcing more businesses to shut down.

Sutton said officials are considering how increased restrictions would affect businesses, but Andrews said there could be no economic recovery until the public health challenge associated with the virus was dealt with.

“It is incredibly difficult, in fact it’s almost impossible for us to see businesses recover and survive, unless and until we get these numbers down,” Andrews said.

“These numbers are too high and so long as they remain too high, we will not be able to open up, find a COVID normal, we will still be in this limbo where we have stabilised, we have to the best of our judgement, we have avoided our hospital system being completely overrun.”

Andrews urged Victorians not to speculate about the next steps officials may take, saying analysis of options was still underway.

“Exactly what that [restrictions] will be, when it will be, how long it would need to operate for, all of that would be for another day,” he said.

Andrews revealed $63 million has been paid to businesses so far under the Victorian government’s scheme that offers $5,000 payments to businesses affected by existing COVID-19 trading restrictions.

So far, 12,600 businesses have received $5,000 payments under the program, and Andrews said officials are “making good progress” in processing the payments.

NOW READ: “Effectively stage four”: Face masks mandatory Victoria-wide as state reports record 723 cases

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