Prime Minister Scott Morrison has put pressure on Victoria to ramp up its contact tracing capacity in order to relax its stringent coronavirus restrictions more quickly than planned.
Melburnians are facing an additional two weeks in Stage 4 lockdown, according to a plan outlined by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, with other restrictions to be eased in five stages at different paces in the weeks ahead.
But Mr Morrison said he hopes Mr Andrews’ roadmap out of restrictions is a “worst-case scenario”, labelling it “crushing news” for Victorians who are set to continue living under the lockdown conditions.
“What I can’t help but be struck by is that, under the thresholds that have been set in that plan, Sydney would be under curfew now,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“Sydney doesn’t need to be under curfew now. They have a tracing capability that can deal with outbreaks. That’s why I say it’s important that we work on building that tracing capability in Victoria.”
Mr Morrison said the federal government would be providing “constructive feedback” to the Victorian government once it had reviewed modelling used to develop the state’s response.
But he has urged Premier Andrews to consider the roadmap a “starting point” that can be moved out of more quickly through improving the state’s contact tracing capacity.
“We do not have that authority to step in and tell the Victorian government they have to follow another plan, that is not how Australia’s federation works,” he said.
“It is incumbent upon us to work constructively with the Victorian government to raise these issues as we will with them in the days and, I imagine, the weeks ahead.”
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said parts of the state’s roadmap timetable could be fast-tracked if the statistics allow them to do so.
Prof Sutton said there would be no change to the initial 28 September deadline, but there could be flexibility around easing restrictions around the 26 October and 23 November dates on the roadmap timetable.
“We need to absolutely have that time to drive transmission down so we’re going in the right direction,” Prof Sutton said.
Premier Andrews also defended the roadmap, announced on Sunday, against fierce criticism from the business sector for not easing restrictions quickly enough.
He says the “steady, safe” opening of the lockdown conditions would ensure its lasting effect.
Additional reporting by AAP
Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am. During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.
Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative. The full list of restrictions can be found here.
All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.