Covid Victoria: Premier warns of delays to lockdown easing, cluster grows

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned a growing cluster in north Melbourne could push back the timeline for reopening the economy with an announcement on the easing of restrictions due on Sunday.

The state recorded seven new cases on Saturday with a majority linked to a cluster in the suburb of Preston, prompting a massive testing blitz, with more than 17,000 people tested in 24 hours.

The result of much of that testing won’t be known until Saturday evening or Sunday, with the outcome likely determining the next step in relaxing restrictions.

“With so many test results that are in the labs at the moment, and with so many people that will get tested today... I just want to caution people from banking that tomorrow I'm making a whole series of detailed announcements about opening up,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Saturday.

“We do hope to get to that point but with so many thousands of tests that are still being processed, we need to see the results of those tests.”

Pictured is Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews. He has warning lockdown restrictions may be delayed.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has sought to temper expectations about Melbourne's impending lockdown easing. Source: AAP

The premier said the crucial information would come in the coming days as health authorities worked to determine whether new cases in the northern metropolitan area were linked or not.

“If there are no linkages, if they're not linked in any way, that speaks to the fact that there may be more virus in that northern part of the city than we would be comfortable with,” Mr Andrews said.

In this instance, he warned, relaxing restrictions too soon could see “case numbers explode”.

“Cases that are linked together are in an entirely different category to cases that aren't. One speaks to containment and the other phenomenon speaks to the notion that there is virus out there at greater levels than we had thought and hope,” Mr Andrews later added.

“I'll make announcements tomorrow (Sunday). I'll fully explain where it is we land but, with so many test results in the labs and others that will be done today (Saturday), it's really important that we be guided by the data.”

Mr Andrews said he was still optimistic the state government would “have positive things to say” on Sunday. Retailers were expecting to be allowed to embark on a so-called “dark opening” from Monday, allowing staff to return to get the business ready and safe to reopen later in the week.

“It's a note of caution, with so much information yet to come to us, we need to be guided by that. That has always been the way. That is what has delivered these low numbers,” Mr Andrews said.

The premier said he expected it to be a “late night and early morning” before he was able to make judgements on impending relaxations.

“We are in a very good position and if we can proceed tomorrow we will,” he said.

Mr Andrews would not rule out postponing Sunday’s announcement.

Premier defends communication after family left devastated

The family at the centre of the growing cluster have been left so upset by the sequence of events they are thinking about leaving the area, the ABC reported.

A Year 5 boy who tested positive attended the East Preston Islamic College where the latest cluster has taken hold. An apparent mix-up meant his parents did not realise he was supposed to be quarantining, prompting community leaders to question whether health authorities were providing clear communication to coronavirus cases from multicultural communities.

Four of Saturday's new cases were linked to the East Preston Islamic College in Preston. Source: AAP
Four of Saturday's new cases were linked to the East Preston Islamic College in Preston. Source: AAP

Mr Andrews sought to defend the job health authorities had done in reaching out to multicultural communities through faith leaders and others on the ground.

“Fifty per cent of all the staff and others we have on the ground speak a second language. There's no shortage in any sense of translated material or people to be able to interpret,” Mr Andrews said.

“The vast majority of people can speak English and speak English well. But we have that as a sort of safety valve, if you like, to make sure that if anyone does need things to be explained in more detail, then we have the adequate staff.

“Any suggestion to the contrary is simply not right and it is not helpful to be casting doubt on the adequacy of the response.”

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