The Victorian Premier has defended his decision to host an international tennis tournament in Melbourne after some annoyed residents said the event wasn’t worth the risk.
A hotel worker was confirmed infected with the coronavirus on Wednesday night.
Daniel Andrews said his government’s goal was to reach a state of “COVID normal” and to manage contagion risks rather than eliminate them completely.
“Our strategy is to try and find that COVID normal, to try to have economic activity, trying to have that economic rebuilding and recovery and manage this risk,” Mr Andrews said on Thursday.
He said it was a “challenge” to maintain hotel quarantine as extremely contagious strains of COVID-19 circulate overseas.
“We don’t have a hard border when no-one comes here,” he said. “That would be the only way that we could have, in effect, zero risk.”
“That’s a big call and not one that I’m actually empowered to make. That’s a matter for the PM.”
He said there’s no need at the moment for a large-scale lockdown, with contact tracers instead focusing on isolating close contacts of the infected 26-year-old.
“What this will mean (…) is many hundreds of people will have to isolate at home and this is again that proven method of the case, the primary close contacts and the secondary close contacts, those three rings, if you like, that is the most important part,” Mr Andrews said.
“Yes, inconveniencing or locking down many hundreds or perhaps thousands of people, but not having to put in place rules that affected millions more.”
But some battle-weary Victorians took to social media to express their frustration that their state was at risk of community COVID-19 transmission again after living through a 16-week lockdown last year.
“Anyone coming in from overseas is a huge risk….. I think everyone knew this would happen. Don’t learn do you,” one person commented on Mr Andrews’ Facebook account.
Michael Rowland, co-host of ABC Breakfast in Melbourne, said in a tweet he’s also noticed some of his viewers felt angry.
“Fair bit of anger from viewers this morning about the wisdom of holding the Australian Open in the midst of a pandemic, particularly as it has meant hundreds of players and support staff coming into Melbourne,” he wrote.
Other social media commentators praised Mr Andrews for his leadership during the pandemic.
“We got through this a few weeks ago and we’ll do it again,” one supporter wrote.
Though it hasn’t been confirmed whether the Melbourne worker was infected with one of the new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, the emergence of the mutant types abroad has posed a tough test for Australia’s hotel quarantine system.
Last month, a hotel cleaner in Brisbane tested positive for a strain of the virus that first emerged in the United Kingdom.
Perth and two other Western Australian regions are currently in a five-day lockdown after a hotel worker in the state capital tested positive for the same UK strain.