The principles Daniel Andrews says will guide Victoria’s roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions
We don’t yet know all the details, but after Monday’s press conference from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, we now know when we’ll know more about the state’s path out of coronavirus restrictions.
The Premier announced he would reveal a roadmap to reopening the state this Sunday.
He said it was important for the Victorian Government to see another week of coronavirus data before that announcement.
“It is too early today to settle that roadmap and to lock that in,” he said.
Victoria recorded 73 new cases on Monday and 41 additional deaths.
Mr Andrews said he understood Victorians wanted to know how the state’s reopening would work.
“I know a week feels, and indeed is, a long time locked at home, but it is also a very lengthy period of time when it comes to understanding what this virus is doing,” he said.
But the Premier remained optimistic about the state’s outlook.
“We will defeat this second wave, and if we do it properly, and we will, with a phased, appropriate, safe and steady opening up, then we will avoid a third wave,” he said.
“We will avoid again losing control of this virus, seeing thousands of people in hospital and hundreds of people losing their lives.”
While most of the roadmap will be revealed on Sunday, here is what we know so far about the principles that will guide it.
Workplaces will have stricter health regulations
Mr Andrews said the roadmap out of restrictions would include physical distancing in workplaces, people working from home where possible, and an end to carpooling.
He said it would likely include people wearing a face covering at all times in the workplace.
He added it included “a policy that can be fairly described as strict when it comes to keeping staff at home if they’re unwell”.
“They are commonsense principles, but they are very important and they will have to underpin each and every one of the decisions that we will announce, and the pathway that we will share with Victorians on Sunday,” he said.
In a media release, the Victorian Government also revealed workplaces would need to act quickly if a staff member became ill and develop policies to support the person to stay home and get tested.
It said workplaces would need to keep records of all staff, customers and visitors.
Other measures to be included will be workplaces limiting the density of people in a space, making sure high-touch points are regularly cleaned and hand sanitiser is available.
Mr Andrews said high-risk settings, like meatworks and abattoirs, would not be returning to pre-COVID practices.
But he said moving into warmer weather gave the state further options around bars, cafes and restaurants that weren’t possible before, like outdoor dining.
“[In] the weeks and months to come, we want to get as many people back to work as quickly as we can, but it’s got to be done safely,” he said.
Workplace ‘bubbles’ to be encouraged
Employers will be encouraged to create a “workforce bubble” where possible, which would limit the number of staff who have prolonged contact with each other.
This could be done through staff being grouped and only rostered on together with no overlay with other staff and a reduction in staff working across multiple sites.
The Victorian Government said meetings and lunchtime breaks would also look different, with enclosed spaces to be avoided wherever possible.
Workplaces will be asked to open doors and windows for airflow rather than rely on recirculated air and will be asked to move meetings and breaks outdoors where possible.
Some industries will have to wait for a reopening date
The Premier said Sunday’s announcement would cover industries that were forced to close under Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown.
He said it would cover cafes, bars, restaurants, retail, and personal care industries.
“We’re not going to be able to necessarily give every single sector a hard and fast date at which they will be reopening,” Mr Andrews said.
He said some industries’ reopening would be driven by data a week or two after an initial reopening of the state.
Traffic light system to be introduced
Mr Andrews said stage 3 and stage 2 lockdowns would look “substantially different” compared to last time.
“This will be much more around a traffic light system, and we will move through different phases,” he said.
UNSW epidemiology professor Mary-Louise McLaws has previously flagged a traffic light system as a tool to aid recovery.
Red, amber and green alert levels could be used across the country, she said, and could be based on the number of new infections over a two-week period.
Under Professor McLaws’ proposed system, restriction levels would change in line with the colour-coded alert levels.
“You need to be more pre-emptive than reactionary,” she said.
She said a clear and defined number of cases for red, amber and green levels could help people understand why restrictions were being implemented.
Professor McLaws said based on Monday’s case numbers, she believed 11 days would be the best-case scenario for Victoria getting to the green zone and two months would be the worst case scenario.
Where do we want to see numbers down to?
Mr Andrews said the State Government had always resisted using a certain case number as the sole gauge for reopening the state.
“We have always resisted putting a number on this,” Mr Andrews said.
“But we want these numbers down as low as they can possibly be.
“There will be a point where we have to make a decision” based on the modelling and data, he said.
“So with numbers at X level, say by Friday this week, various models, various different options for opening up — they will all come with a risk that we lose some control,” he said.
“None of those models will be 100 per cent safe.
“The question is, calibrating that right, getting that right, doing that detailed work and having the lowest risk possible.”
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said he hoped we would be in the ballpark of 40 or 50 new daily cases by the end of the week.
“There is a great deal of uncertainty around the tail of any epidemic. We are in a wave that is more complex than the first one we tackled,” he said.
“We’ve had substantial community transmission, but as we get down to the 60, 70 numbers, we know that the number of mystery cases — community transition cases where we don’t know where they have acquired it — is getting to single figures.
“That gives us a little bit more confidence that we can get on top of it, and with smaller numbers, we’ll have greater and greater clarity around whether transmission is occurring.”
He said it was important to hold the course and continue to get tested, to get to a summer that more closely resembles normal — when people can see friends and family, go to dinner, share Christmas dinner and enjoy the sunny days.
“The pain that is happening every day now, we are all fed up with it — absolutely fed up with it,” he said.
“But holding the course, even as we get down to these very low numbers, is absolutely critical.”
Could stage 4 restrictions be extended?
The Premier was asked if it was possible stage 4 restrictions would be extended.
In response, he said: “We can’t rule out settings in two weeks’ time, it is very difficult to know what those settings will be. They’ll have to be guided by the data, the science and the very best medical advice.
“Everything has to have that asterisk next to it and I know that is deeply frustrating, it’s frustrating for all of us.”
Mr Andrews said if Victoria was to reopen too quickly, the number of new cases would “explode”.
He said he wanted to avoid the “enormous damage” of a see-sawing effect, where rules were on and off.
No return date yet for elective surgery
The Premier was asked when elective surgeries would resume. He said there wasn’t a “definitive date”.
He said non-urgent surgeries had been suspended to allow for enough beds for aged care residents and COVID-19 patients.
“So we’ll get elective surgery back to where it needs to be. It is not an easy decision,” he said.
“There will be blitzes, there will be substantial additional effort, and I am very confident our surgical teams, and indeed the medical teams who support that as well, will be up to the task.”
What will Christmas look like this year?
Mr Andrews said he wanted Christmas to look as normal as possible this year.
“We had a very different Mother’s Day. No one was happy about that. We’re going to have a very different Father’s Day. I want to make sure we have a Christmas Day as close to normal as possible,” he said.
“And if we do this too quick — if we do this chasing something that might be popular for a few weeks, if we forget it’s a pandemic and think it’s a popularity contest — well then Christmas won’t look normal at all.”
He said there would be “inevitable outbreaks” that would need to be “pounced” on.
“Even as uncertain as this is, you can be certain of this: if we open up too quick, then we will lose control of this,” he said.
“The numbers will explode and all the sacrifice and hard work, that I’m so proud of Victorians for making and contributing, will have been worth nothing.”
Rules to change for those living alone as soon as possible
Mr Andrews said as soon as it was safe to have different rules for those who lived alone, the Government would try to bring in those changes quickly — but stressed that also needed to be done safely.
“The fact you live alone doesn’t mean you’re immune to spreading this to someone else, if you start having visitors coming in,” he said.