We welcome the continued and sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases in Victoria which has enabled the Victorian Government’s announcement today of a further easing of restrictions.
It has been a very challenging time for Victorians.
We understand the ability to now travel up to 25 kilometres, spend more time outdoors, go to the hairdresser and greater freedom to undertake a range of outdoor activities will be important to the economic and social wellbeing of the community.
As we said at the time, it was regrettable such tough restrictions had to be implemented. It has been to the credit of Victorians that they have managed to adhere to these rules and we commend them for their commitment.
The Federal Government has supported Victorian households and businesses with around $31 billion of initiatives including JobKeeper, cash flow support, payment of the COVID Supplement, pandemic disaster leave and substantial wage subsidies to hire and keep on apprentices.
Whilst the Premier’s announcement of the Victorian Government’s decisions today enable some businesses to return to a limited COVIDSafe operation, many remain closed. We understand and sympathise with the frustration and concern expressed by businesses about the ongoing cost and impact on their jobs and livelihoods of this second wave.
Victoria’s three-day rolling average is now below two cases per day. Maintaining this result will make a strong case for the retail and hospitality sectors to reopen before the next review date in November. This should remain under active consideration.
Every day Victoria remains under restrictions to get the second wave in Victoria under control comes at a heavy cost.
Throughout the lockdown more than 1000 jobs have been lost, on average, every day. There has also been a 31 per cent increase in mental health services being accessed under Medicare for the same four-week period up to 11 October in Victoria compared with last year, whilst it has been only an eight per cent increase in NSW and seven per cent nationally.
The continued health, mental health and financial impacts of these restrictions will be profound on many Victorians. That is why we encourage Victoria to move safely and quickly towards the NSW model of strong contact tracing and a COVIDSafe but predominately open economy.
Our national health picture indicates we can safely reopen small businesses, retail stores and hospitality venues, as long as we do it with COVIDSafe practices. This involves physical distancing, strong testing, vigilant contract tracing systems and COVIDSafe plans for all businesses.
The national picture is a positive one, we are now seeing a vast improvement in case numbers and where outbreaks emerge, they are successfully being managed, such as we have seen in NSW.
With every release of the Common Operating Picture of COVID-19 responses across states and territories we can see a steady improvement. This improvement demonstrates to us all that we are learning how to live with COVID-19 and that we should be working to reopen our businesses, manufacturing industries, education and training, hospitality and retail sectors.
We all know this upcoming Christmas is going to be different to ones we have celebrated in the past, however by working together and allowing for the reopening of small and large businesses, venues and industries we can take a little of the strain away. We are confident with the work all states and territories have been putting in place with testing, contact tracing systems and the COVIDSafe plans we are asking all businesses to have, we can continue on our current suppression trajectory.
We look forward to seeing a further opening up of Australia’s economy and continuing to work with all our State and Territory colleagues in reopening Australia, and seeing families starting to enjoy all that Australia has to offer.