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Victoria's stage four lockdown likely to be extended


Melbourne’s stage four lockdown, which mandated the wearing of face masks, strict controls on movement and an 8pm-5am curfew, is unlikely to end in two weeks as originally forecast, says the state’s chief public health officer.

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The harsh lockdown was enacted for six weeks on August 2 after coronavirus cases spiked, and was due to end on September 13.

“It’s hard to see that happening,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told Nine on Monday.

“I think the numbers need to be a lot less than they are now.”

Victoria today reported 41 coronavirus deaths, an Australian daily record, although only eight of the fatalities are new.

When the Department of Health and Human Services released the daily figures on Monday, it explained that 22 of the 41 fatalities were people who died before August 27.

They were reported by aged care facilities to the DHHS on Sunday.

Premier Daniel Andrews later said that 33 of those fatalities had happened in previous weeks.

It takes the state’s death toll to 565 and the national figure to 652.

Daily case numbers dropped to 73, the lowest Victorian figure since July 3.

It came as Andrews announced the government will release its roadmap to reopening the state on Sunday.

That is a week out from when stage-four restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and stage-three provisions for regional Victoria are due to end.

“It is too early today to settle that road map and lock that in,” Andrews said.

“Another week’s data is critically important and for us to have a better sense of how long it’s going to take to drive these numbers down.”

The Andrews Government is negotiating with crossbenchers over what should happen when the state of emergency provisions expire on September 13.

A week ago, Andrews sparked controversy when he announced the government wanted to extend the powers by 12 months to help deal with the coronavirus.

With the opposition immediately saying it would not support the proposal, the government was forced into negotiations with crossbenchers.

There has been talk of a compromise, with the extension reduced to six months, but there is no confirmation ahead of parliament returning on Tuesday.

Now the police association, a powerful lobby group, has released a statement on the issue.

“With 13 days to run on this current state of emergency, it is essential that parliament moves to maintain the framework that provides police and PSOs (public safety officers) with the capacity to help Victoria safely come out of lockdown,” it said.

“There can be no adequate plan for a return to some normality, if the framework designed to ensure it’s done safely and incrementally, is removed.

“This issue is above politics. The safety of our community and our members in this precarious time is too important.”

Meanwhile, new Treasury numbers paint a grim picture of the devastating impact Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus is having on the national economy.

Strict lockdown measures have driven the number of Victorians on unemployment benefits up by eight per cent, while household spending has plunged by 30 per cent compared to just three per cent in the rest of the country.

The hospitality sector has borne the brunt of the restrictions, with spending on dining and takeaway meals down 60 per cent, while accommodation has fallen 80 per cent.

Treasury estimates 60 per cent of the 2.24 million people receiving JobKeeper by the end of the year will be in Victoria.

While the number of people on wage subsidies is expected to fall to 1.75 million early next year, three in five recipients are still expected to be from Victoria.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Victoria’s most senior Liberal, accused Andrews of mishandling coronavirus outbreaks, likening the situation to a slow-moving car crash.

“Restrictions imposed by the Victorian government have had a devastating impact on the economy,” Frydenberg said on Monday.

“As we have seen in other states, if you can successfully suppress the virus, jobs will return.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil said health advice should be paramount in lifting restrictions.

“This is not a choice between the economy and lives. We actually can and must consider both,” she told ABC radio.

O’Neil said paid pandemic leave, training for workers and providing workplaces with safety equipment would be key to a sensible reopening.

-with AAP

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