Victorians need to get off the COVID-19 treadmill.
What Victorians need is a roadmap out of lockdown, just as we had last year. It is what is necessary to provide the community, businesses and employees with some certainty and hope.
While Delta may have changed the conversation, we should not let it dictate our resolve. Victoria can lead the nation by showing what a successful roadmap can look like. A roadmap that lets people and businesses start planning, giving them something to look forward to.
This would instil confidence in both consumers, employees and business and allow them to build up, so they are ready and excited to reopen. Importantly, it also provides further reasons to get vaccinated. The Victorian Chamber welcomes the reduction in time between first and second AstraZeneca doses announced on Thursday, as the 12-week gap was a disincentive for some to take that vaccine.
There needs to be greater ambition to get the State going again. This does not mean that all restrictions come off straight away. That would be irresponsible, but Victoria should plan with
Victoria responsibly locked down to protect the country last year. Unfortunately, the virus made its way back here regardless of all that sacrifice. Victoria can lead the nation again by developing a strong and sensible roadmap out of lockdown.
Most of us are aware of the Doherty Institute modelling, which gives Victoria tangible targets to hit. The Federal Government also released a high-level plan of what that might mean for businesses to open up, but it was quite deliberately a framework rather than a detailed plan. Now it’s up to the State Government to fill in the blanks and provide the detail, benchmarks and goals to give all Victorians certainty and hope.
The Victorian Chamber proposes a four-phase plan that covers the immediate and then what happens at 70 and 80 per cent. The NSW, Victorian and Federal Government need to come together on this plan to protect border towns – and our economies and communities more broadly. It doesn’t benefit any Australian for Victoria and NSW to be running at cross purposes.
We have couched our plan within the parameters of restriction changes previously used by the Public Health team. The immediate imperative and phase one of our plan – in the next week or so – should be to open up all LGAs in Regional Victoria that have had no trace of COVID-19 for 14 days and allow businesses there to trade safely in restricted settings.
We have seen the reports of compliance slipping and we can’t allow that to happen if we want to open up sooner. Let’s be COVIDSafe, use QR codes and get tested then stay home if you’re unwell. This will help give our public health team greater confidence to open up.
Phase two: once Victoria has reached 80 per cent of first dose vaccination levels, the State Government could give us hope by shifting to pre-Lockdown Five restrictions with density quotients at 25 per cent and a tapering off of government support. Students must be back at school for the resumption of Term Four.
Phase three: at 70 per cent fully vaccinated, Victoria should progress to pre-Valentine’s Day settings. Then phase four: at 80 per cent, we go further effectively COVID Normal. Where business can trade and we can see our family and friends at home, interstate and abroad the way we used to.
To future-proof this plan, the Federal Government should commit to fund, as the State has, an mRNA facility to produce the necessary vaccines that we will need going forward. We all know that when it comes to med and bio tech Victoria leads the way, just as we can with our roadmap out of lockdown.
What we all know is that we need to finish this race against COVID-19. We are on the final straight, but we can’t get to the finish line while we are stuck on the COVID-19 treadmill. Most of all, we need a light on the hill to run towards. Let’s get cracking.
This article originally appeared in the The Saturday Age online on 4 September 2021.