“The time for warnings is over”: Stricter lockdowns likely for Melbourne due to non-compliance

“The time for warnings is over”: Stricter lockdowns likely for Melbourne due to non-compliance

Melbourne lockdown continues
Words by Kate Streader

Health experts are calling for Melbourne to move to a stage four lockdown.

One week after reintroducing the stage three lockdown in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, COVID-19 rates in these areas remain high. This morning, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews addressed the situation and next steps in a press conference.

While the Premier expressed his gratitude to the majority of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire citizens for their “high level of compliance” with the stage three restrictions, he also warned those not following the Stay at Home directive that non-compliance could lead to a stricter lockdown extending beyond the planned six-week period.

“If, however, people do not do the right thing then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and we will have to potentially prolong the period where those restrictions are in place,” he said.

“Where we are is in a very serious and deadly position,” he added. “The time for warnings is over. Last time, there were many more warnings issued than fines issued. This time is different. People know and understand the rules.”

Andrews also invited Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent to speak at this morning’s press conference to give examples of “some pretty poor behaviour” that has been seen across the state over the last week.

“A particular concern for us is the ongoing parties and gatherings. People playing poker, people hosting gatherings,” said Deputy Commissioner Nugent. “Please stop. Do all you can to support what the rest of the community is doing to address this health emergency.”

Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton spoke briefly about the possibility of a stage four lockdown when addressing the public earlier this week.

“If you don’t want a stage four, if you don’t want the lockdown to last a moment longer, then please follow the rules,” urged Andrews.

While there are no specific details on what stage four restrictions would involve, it’s likely to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand’s successful lockdown model which saw all non-essential businesses forced to close their doors, including butchers, bakers and fruit shops, as well as big retailers like Bunnings and Kmart.

A stricter lockdown could also mean restaurants and cafes would no longer be allowed to offer takeaway and the use of face masks in public could become mandatory.

So far, Australia’s COVID-19 response plan has been aimed at flattening the curve with the main goal of suppressing the virus. Now, health experts are urging the government to move to a more vigorous ‘elimination’ strategy involving tougher lockdowns.

Professor Gregory Dore, an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist at the Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, penned an open letter published by The Sydney Morning Herald titled ‘I thought elimination of COVID-19 was not possible in Australia – now I’ve changed my mind’ which argues eradication is possible if we move to an elimination strategy.

“Such a strategy would require enhancement of the existing public health response,” writes Dore. “This would include more prolonged physical distancing in Melbourne, likely stage three restrictions for two to three weeks beyond absence of community transmission and the adoption of mask-wearing in parallel with these restrictions; the surveillance and protection of vulnerable populations; continued high-level testing … A comprehensive elimination surveillance and monitoring plan would also be required.”

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