Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lashed out at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over his decision not to lift coronavirus restrictions, keeping the vast majority of businesses closed.
Mr Morrison said he was profoundly disappointed in the state government’s decision to extend Melbourne’s lockdown measures, despite metropolitan COVID-19 cases falling below a rolling 14-day average of five cases.
Premier Andrews previously stated when cases fell below an average of five, some retail and hospitality businesses would be able to open under COVID-19 safe protocols.
“This is a profound disappointment,” Mr Morrison said in a joint statement with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“Of course, Victorians do not want to face another lockdown and of course they don’t want all of this to have been for nothing. That is why ensuring the state government’s capability to deal with outbreaks through their public health response is so essential.”
The Prime Minister said the continued lockdown suggested the state government was not confident its health system was capable of suppressing transmission of the virus.
The Victorian government said issues its contact tracing system that led to its second outbreak had significantly improved.
Mr Morrison said Melbourne’s ongoing lockdown cost the city close to 1000 jobs per day.
“At some point, you have to move forward and put your public health systems to work in a bid to reclaim the jobs that have been lost,” Mr Morrison said.
“Victoria’s public health systems are either up to the task of dealing with future outbreaks or they are not. The decision to keep businesses closed suggests that there is still not sufficient confidence within the government that their systems can support reopening.”
The federal government has also dropped Melbourne as a hotspot, according to its own health advice.
The Australian Retailers Association said it is deeply concerned about further delays to the opening up of the Melbourne economy, which is stifling trading conditions leading up to the important Christmas retail season.
ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said the Victorian government should be allowing retailers to enter stores to ensure premises are COVID-19 safe ready for the expected surge in shopper once lockdown restrictions eventually ease.
“Retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits at this time of year and that cash has never been more desperately needed,” Mr Zahra said.
“The extended lockdowns are destroying thousands of retail jobs – and while retailers are doing everything they can to stay optimistic and keep their teams employed, many can’t hold on much longer.”
Originally published as ‘Profoundly disappointed’: PM blasts Dan