Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews defends statewide lockdown after ‘economic Armageddon’ criticism

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has continued to defended his statewide lockdown and warned it could happen again despite increasing criticism that he could have chosen an easier path.

Much discussion has been made of Mr Andrews’ decision in the past 24-hours, as the snap lockdown ended at midnight after the state recorded no new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

But some restrictions will stay in place and Andrews is facing pressure to deliver as Victoria begins to crack under the weight of quarantine sagas and economic dramas.

National Australia Bank economist Alan Oster estimated to The Australian the economic cost for the state will hit approximately $500 million.

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Victorian retail and hospitality businesses say they’ve lost tens of millions of dollars during the five day shutdown, while the Australian Medical Association has even said Victoria “cannot be trusted” to manage hotel quarantine and demanded its restructure.

But Mr Andrews bit back, bluntly adding: “I’m not prepared to pretend to the Victorian community that this is over, there can be some ­notice period but we don’t have the luxury of giving people a month’s notice.

“I’m just not in the business of ignoring advice, or shopping around for advice that suits me.”

Victoria’s opposition leader Michael O’Brien has used the opportunity to criticise the “yoyo lockdowns” and said hMr Andrews should “follow the NSW model”.

“We’ve seen businesses open, businesses closed; schools open, schools closed; masks on, masks off,” he said.

“We just need some certainty and we need to keep Victoria open.”

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said businesses were “left to pick up the pieces” and that while small businesses are relieved the statewide lockdown is lifting, the Victorian Government is still yet to announce any support measures for the sector.

“It is fantastic news that small businesses can open their doors again tomorrow, however I am disappointed the Victorian Government has not yet announced what it will do to support the thousands of small businesses forced to shut up shop for five days with next to no notice,” Ms Carnell said in a statement.

“The Victorian Government needs to urgently compensate small businesses impacted by this snap lockdown, such as florists and restaurants that had their storage rooms packed with supplies ahead of Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year celebrations.

“Many Victorian small businesses are understandably shattered by the latest sudden lockdown, given they were expecting their busiest weekend of trade in months. Many restaurants were fully-booked all weekend and were not given time to cancel the delivery of their additional supplies.

Restaurateur and owner of Chin Chin in Melbourne Chris Lucas told Peta Credlin “as usual it’s been very disappointing.

“We’ve had absolutely zero response from the government on compensation.”

The snap decision came over fears the infectious UK strain of coronavirus, B117, had crossed into the city after an outbreak linked to the Holiday Inn airport cluster, which currently stands at 19 cases. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton joined Mr Andrews and warned Victorians “it’s not over yet” and said it was still likely for people to test positive in the days ahead.

“It’s absolutely a good result. Everybody loves days of zeros, but the incubation period is 14 days.”

Mr Lucas said his company was offered a “measly” $5000 last year “when we faced monumental losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars” and predicted an “economic armageddon” at the end of March at the end of JobKeeper.

He said he had to throw out $30 million of food for the Valentine’s Day trading and demanded the lockdowns to come to an end.

Mr Andrews said support measures will be announced over the coming days “when we are in a position to do so”.

“I, of course, acknowledge the very difficult circumstances many have faced but there was simply no alternative but to follow the advice provided.”

“We’re going to finish up with bars and pubs and restaurants open, we’re going to finish up with people being able to move freely, because this short sharp circuit breaker lockdown has worked.”

Victorians will be allowed just five visitors to their homes, rather than the previous 15-person limit, until next Friday, February 26 — the balance of the 14-day incubation period.

Schools reopen today, and retail and hospitality will reopen with the same density limits as last week. Religious gatherings be able to resume with the same density limits and funerals and weddings can go ahead with limits of numbers in accordance with the venue’s density limits.

Up to 20 people from any number of households will be allowed at public gatherings and workplaces will return to up to 50 per cent capacity. Capacity will be lifted to the previously planned 75 per cent capacity “when it is safe to do so” after February 26.

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