Sunday, October 25, 2020
Politics

Victoria set to ease lockdown rules after it records two new cases and no deaths | Australia news

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The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has said having just two new coronavirus cases across the state on Friday vindicated the severe lockdown measures imposed on Melburnians since August.

Andrews sounded a triumphant tone as he noted it was the state’s best result since 8 June with no deaths reported either.

New South Wales reported one new locally acquired case on Friday, as Queensland announced a further easing of restrictions.

Andrews praised Victorians for persisting with the restrictions and said the good result only happened because the state had not “listened to the loudest voices” or “lost our nerve”.

“Today is a day where we can be optimistic, and we can be positive,” he said. “We have stayed the course, we have not let our frustration get the better of ourselves. We have found it within ourselves to deal with the pain and the challenges of lockdown. We found it within ourselves to look out for each other while staying apart from each other.”

The 14-day rolling average in Melbourne now sits at 8.7 cases, with 17 unknown cases over the past two weeks. The regional average is 0.6.

Andrews flagged the state would take “significant steps” to ease rules on Sunday, though the changes would not be as expansive as initially set out in the government’s roadmap.

Health officials were examining the future of the 5km restriction on movement, including the possibility of a 10km or 20km bubble. Andrews said there would be no change to the hard border between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria when some rules were eased on Sunday.

Andrews has faced increasing pressure to ease restrictions in recent days, including from business groups and Melbourne-based Liberal ministers in the federal government. Earlier this week he acknowledged the government would probably alter its targets to allow a more rapid reopening, saying it was likely “10 is the new five”.

But on Friday he bristled at suggestions the government’s decision to bring forward the reopening date from 26 October to 19 October reflected a desire for “good news”.

“I would have thought … that I had established for the Victorian community that I was in the business of doing what was right, not what was popular,” he said.

Amid concerns about an outbreak at Shepparton, north-east of Melbourne, Andrews confirmed authorities had processed about 40% of the nearly 5,000 tests undertaken over Wednesday and Thursday. So far there have been no further positive cases.

In NSW, there were five new cases recorded over the past 24 hours, although only one was locally acquired. The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said she hoped to announce a further easing of restrictions next week if the chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, was satisfied with how the state was tracking.

“They would depend on how the case numbers go in the next few days,” Berejiklian said. “We were hoping to make some announcements yesterday and today but we have held off on those given the number of community transmissions we have had this week.”

NSW authorities have been working to contain a cluster at Lakemba, which now totals 16 infections after a further case was recorded on Friday.

That outbreak has threatened the Queensland government’s plans to reopen the border with NSW at the end of the month, prompting criticism from the federal government.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Thursday noted the border closures meant Queensland could not benefit from new rules that allow some Australian states to receive travellers from New Zealand without the need to quarantine. The first of those flights was set to arrive in Sydney on Friday.

The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, said arrivals needed to have been in New Zealand for at least 14 days and declare they were free of any Covid symptoms.

“The New Zealand travellers … will be able to come straight out into our community and of course enjoy catching up with their family and friends and doing the business we hope they will do in NSW,” he said.

There is still no trans-Tasman bubble, however, given Australian residents cannot enter New Zealand without quarantining.

Queensland has continued to shrug off Morrison’s criticisms, and on Friday, the deputy premier, Steven Miles, said the government would further relax the state’s rules. The changes, which Miles described as a “reward for Queenslanders”, granted further freedoms to nursing home residents and people attending weddings and school events.

“Up to 40 people at a time will be able to dance at weddings and residents at aged care facilities and nursing homes will again be able to go on excursions to the beach, to play bingo,” Miles said.

From Friday afternoon, young people at school formals would be able to “dance again”, Miles said. Queensland recorded two new cases on Friday, but both were contained in hotel quarantine.



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