Victorians received welcome news on Tuesday, with Premier Daniel Andrews confirming the end of the state-wide lockdown from 11.59pm.
While stay at home requirements and travel distance limits are scrapped, face masks are not and a ban on home visits is among a range of restrictions still in place.
“There will be no crowds at the footy, no crowds at large events, theatres, those sorts of gatherings for at least two weeks,” Mr Andrews said.
“Again I know that’s not necessarily news people want to hear, but there is significant good news in here and significant freedom, but we also have to be cautious.”
Schoolchildren will be back in the classroom from Wednesday and hospitality, retail, gyms and personal services will be allowed to reopen, though with density limits in place.
Asked about the dilemma facing many small business over a financially unviable reopening with strict density quotients, the Victorian Premier flagged the announcement of a business support package, potentially as early as tomorrow, Wednesday.
But he noted reopening rules should be reviewed against virus risk.
“Every single business knows and understands that they don’t want an outbreak. It’s this versus lockdown, not versus 2019 levels.”
Victoria on top of Delta outbreak, but what next?
Victoria recorded 10 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, all linked to the current outbreak and in isolation for their entire infectious period.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer stated confident of the state being “on the cursp” of containing the current Delta outbreak but called for caution and confirmed that zero community transmission remains the state’s target.
“It’s where we have to be right now, we have to be at zero with the vaccination levels that we have.”
Asked by Neos Kosmos about the high transmissibility of the Delta variant even within countries with high vaccination rates, Prof Sutton conceded there are learnings to be drawn for what lies ahead.
“The lessons from Israel and others are pertinent. They have seen cases going from dozens to a couple of thousand per day now, but there’s also good news there.
“They still have daily deaths in single figures or thereabouts, so there is great protection from hospitalisation and dying and vaccination should be done for that reason and that reason alone.
“So it will be a challenge form a transmission point of view but the protection from illness is really important.”
Victorians need to accept there will be virus transmission and death, but we’re not there quite yet until jabs become widely available, Prof Sutton said.
“For the last couple of years, there were an estimated 3,000 deaths from influenza every year. COVID is much more severe maybe ten times in the number of deaths, in Australia we could have seen 30,000 to 50,000 deaths.
“So we need to be clear that a vaccine can protect us from huge numbers of deaths, but we’ll have to accept people will die, even vaccinated individuals will die because its such a challenging virus.”
NSW “locked out from our state” until one of two conditions are met
Meanwhile in Sydney, with New South Wales recording its highest daily case number – 172 – since borders were shut, Premier Gladys Berejiklian was grilled over the neighbouring state’s approach.
But Ms Berejiklian rejected the suggestion of “going harder and faster” with the lockdown.
“Victoria is emerging out of its fifth lockdown, and I appreciate people want to make comparisons, but it’s also important to note that every state has had its own course.
“And it’s fair to say that until this point in time, we had our citizens, leading a relatively free, free life, as well as staying safe.”
The comments came as the Victorian Premier was announcing new changes to the state’s cross-border bubble with NSW, with four LGAs listed as extreme risk zones in line with the rest of NSW.
Mr Andrews was repeatedly asked about his disagreement with the NSW decision not to impose a ‘ring of steel’ around Sydney to curb the outbreak, consistent with the one applied in Melbourne last year.
Asked by Neos Kosmos whether he would support a national framework on enforcing ‘ring of steels’, he said he found it unlikely to make its way in the national agenda “given the very binary position that some have taken.”
“I wish I could not speak with authority on how you get 700-800 cases down to zero. But Victorians can speak with authority and tragedy. And that’s why were making these respectful recommendations to others, because it worked here and I reckon there’s every chance to work there.
“They got a different view and that’s fine. They’ll be locked out from our state for as long as they have that view or until they get their cases down whichever might be sooner.”