Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has shed light on the reason he suspects some Victorians have refused COVID-19 tests — a reality that has baffled Australians outside the state for weeks.
It comes as 73 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in Victoria overnight, with about 300,000 residents living in hot spots around Melbourne set to go into lockdown from midnight in an attempt to flatten the curve.
Speaking to The Project’s Lisa Wilkinson on Wednesday night, Mr Andrews said the testing refusal was “disappointing” when asked if it was time to make testing mandatory.
“If someone knocks on your door and says ‘I’ve got a test kit for you’, your only answer should be yes,” he said, adding: “It is very disappointing whenever someone says no to a test.
“I think you have to understand why that is the answer,” he continued.
“I think there might be some people that don’t have access to pay, whether it be sick pay or holiday pay. Their economic circumstances might be very uncertain and the notion of having two days away from work while you wait for your test result may be a big challenge.
“That is why we’ve put in place essentially a no questions asked hardship payment, a $1,500 payment to deal with that perhaps as a disincentive to getting tested. Beyond that there will be many different reasons and I’ve got my public health experts trying to analyse the data from people who have said no,” he explained.
The premier went on to answer Wilkinson’s question by prefacing that he needed to be “careful” when considering forced testing, despite widely-held frustrations.
“I think you have to be careful here, Lisa, though, if I have to have a police officer standing beside every public health officer going door-to-door to take tests, because they are the only ones who can enforce orders, that is the less tests that we can get done and that is less data and it makes it harder for us to have a public health response.
“If you make this too onerous and I know it is deeply tempting because I know it is deeply frustrating that certainly a large number of people are saying no, if you make it too onerous they simply won’t answer the door.”
He concluded by saying the obstacle was “very challenging” and “more complex than it sometimes seems”.
His comments come after acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly confirmed that one in ten Melburnians in COVID-19 hotspot suburbs are still refusing to be tested.
Mr Kelly revealed one of the groups that are refusing testing are parents who don’t want their kids tested despite less invasive saliva tests being offered in Victoria.
“The main one was around kids. But then some misunderstanding about what the test was about and why it was being taken,’’ he said.
“Explaining about the COVID-19 element and why it’s important is a really key component. This is a very multicultural area of Melbourne. Many different ethnic groups and language groups and so not only the translation but also the cultural sensitivity is a really important component and Victorians realise that,” he said.
Last week, Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Annaliese van Diemen similarly said she did not understand why residents in the state’s COVID-19 “hot spots” were refusing to be tested during a doorknocking blitz.
Asked during a press conference just before midday last Friday about the response to the testing blitz, Dr van Diemen said not everybody was taking the matter seriously.
“We’re not enforcing testing. I believe that not everybody who has been offered testing has taken it up,” she said.
“It is disappointing. We would like everybody to get tested in those areas. We would like to really emphasise the message that it is important to get tested and important for us to find every case in those areas.
“We understand why people might have reservations but we are trying to make it is absolutely easy for everybody possible to get tested.”
From 11.59pm tonight, more than 300,000 people across 36 Melbourne suburbs have been told to stay in their homes until at least July 29.
Premier Daniel Andrews today said Melbourne’s lockdown lines have been drawn by public health experts based on data.
He admitted that locking areas down by postcode wasn’t ideal, but it was the best option they had.
“Whenever you draw a line on a map there will always be people on either side of it and anomalies and issues that come from that,” he said.
“What I would say though, the alternative, is to say let’s take the broadest brush we can and lock down the entire north or west of the city or even further still, let’s lock down the entirety of metropolitan Melbourne. We don’t think that is a proportionate response. This is where the problem is and the data doesn’t lie.”
He also said the postcode system makes the lockdowns legally enforceable, because they ensure the most certain lines on the map.
“People know which postcode they live in. There can be no confusion about that,” he said. “What’s more, there are hard lines that are well-known and well understood and for the purposes of enforcement, the public health team made it very clear that doing it suburb to suburb would not necessarily deliver the outcome we want, that postcode boundary, however inconvenient, was the best way to go.”
The Project airs Sunday – Friday from 6.30pm on Channel 10.
Originally published as Reason Victorians are refusing tests