Morrison wants Melbourne lockdown lifted

Scott Morrison has called on the Victorian government to lift lockdown restrictions as soon as possible.

Victoria has recorded 11 new coronavirus infections but they are all close contacts of existing cases or people in quarantine.

Melbourne is set to emerge from two weeks’ lockdown on Thursday night, but with the outbreak relatively under control, there are calls for the state government to act sooner.

The prime minister wants Victoria to reopen, particularly for parents with schoolchildren at home.

“Kids have lost enough time out of school over the course of the last 18 months and it’s very important we get those kids back to school as soon as possible,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“I am hopeful these restrictions in Victoria will be lifted as soon as possible. I would be urging that we move to lift those restrictions as soon as possible.”

The Australian Industry Group said the prolonged lockdown seemed increasingly unnecessary and harmful, with only a handful of connected cases each day.

The federal government is sending an extra 100,000 coronavirus vaccines to Victoria as it responds to the latest outbreak.

Mr Morrison promised the boost in Victorian vaccines stocks would not come at the cost of other states.

The prime minister is also under mounting pressure to find alternatives to hotel quarantine.

Victoria has received approval for a purpose-built quarantine site, with the federal government to build the 500-bed facility and the state to cover ongoing costs.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed she would not be following Victoria’s lead and submitting such a proposal.

Ms Berejiklian said NSW was already taking as many incoming travellers each week as it could handle.

And the state would need 10 times the Victorian site’s capacity to cater for the number of people coming through hotel quarantine each week.

Ms Berejiklian said the Commonwealth would need to build and run dedicated quarantine hubs if it wanted extra capacity in NSW.

The prime minister has ruled out using military facilities including the Richmond RAAF base for quarantine.

“It’s a RAAF base and it needs to operate as a RAAF base,” Mr Morrison said.

“It’s not a medical facility. It’s a RAAF base and its first job is national defence.” 

Ms Berejiklian said hotels could no longer be used once international borders reopened, because they would be needed for tourists and travellers.

She suggested the national quarantine strategy could be reconsidered once enough people were vaccinated.

“Down the track, quarantine could look different once the majority of our population is vaccinated and our international borders are open,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“But at this point in time, we don’t have capacity to operate anything more than what we are doing.”

The prime minister said quarantine requirements could be “very, very different” when international borders eventually reopen.

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