Victoria premier defends virus roadmap

The premier has defended Victoria’s roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions in the face of fierce criticism, saying the state government’s measures are having “considerable success”.

Victoria announced nine more deaths from coronavirus on Monday, taking the state toll to 675 and the national figure to 762.

But there was some good news, with new case numbers dropping significantly to 41 – Victoria’s lowest daily case number since June 26.

The day after announcing the roadmap details, Premier Daniel Andrews noted the new cases number on August 5 was 725, the peak for the state’s second wave.

“We have having considerable success … we are bringing a sense of control to this,” he said.

“A steady, safe opening is what we will do and it will be lasting.”

Some of Victoria’s roadmap timetable also could be fast-tracked if the statistics allow it, according to state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

While he said there will be no change to the initial September 28 deadline, there could be flexibility around easing restrictions around the October 26 and November 23 dates on the roadmap timetable.

“We need to absolutely have that time to drive transmission down so we’re going in the right direction,” Prof Sutton said of September 28.

Asked about October 26, he said: “We would always go through a process of review that we wouldn’t say different circumstances shouldn’t lead to a relook at how we’re tracking and the risk of moving to a different stage.

“I think the clarity is important but … everyone would welcome an earlier opening rather than a later one.”

Monday’s figures came as Victorian small business railed against the government’s roadmap, with Melbourne under stage four measures for another fortnight.

A broader statewide reopening is still months away.

Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said owners are struggling under the weight of costs, including rent, equipment leases, loans and an accumulation of worker entitlements.

“What small businesses are telling us is that they are giving up,” she told Nine’s Today program on Monday.

“For many of them, they are not going to be open until the end of November.”

Melbourne’s stage four restrictions will remain for another fortnight, although from September 14 the nightly curfew will start an hour later at 9pm and run until 5am. 

People living alone will also be able to nominate a friend or family member who can visit, while two hours of daily exercise will be allowed, including social interactions such as picnics in parks or reading books at the beach.

The curfew won’t be lifted until October 26, with people able to leave home for non-essential reasons. 

The lockdown will only lift on that date if the average number of new cases falls below five and there are fewer than five unknown source cases.

Up to five visitors from a nominated household and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will also be allowed.

The final step will come into effect from November 23, if Victoria goes 14 days with no new cases, allowing public gatherings up to 50 people and 20 home visitors at a time.

All remaining restrictions will be removed when Victoria goes 28 days with no new cases, although masks will likely remain compulsory for some time.

But regional Victoria will be able to move to the third step of restrictions soon.

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