Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticised Victoria’s roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions, saying he will look to try and bring Melbourne out of lockdown sooner than proposed.
Mr Morrison said he would look to assist the state in reaching a “more confident” contact tracing ability to allow it to open up earlier than outlined.
He told reporters on Monday he hoped the exit strategy Premier Daniel Andrews outlined on Sunday was a “worst-case scenario”.
The state government's "safe and steady" roadmap to recovery will see Melbourne continue under strict curfew and lockdown until the end of September.
The roadmap indicates Melbourne can only move to Stage 3 of its four-stage plan if the average daily number of infections across a 14-day period is below five.
For the final stage, there must be 14 days of zero cases leading up to November 23.
“Lockdowns and borders are not signs of success in dealing with COVID-19. And so it's important that we put ourselves in a position where they do not feature in how Australia is dealing with COVID-19 on a sustainable basis,” he said.
Better contract tracing needed in Victoria: PM
Secretary of the Department of Health Brendan Murphy said Mr Andrew’s roadmap was “a very conservative approach”.
The prime minister questioned to what extent would Victoria’s restrictions be lessened if a “higher capacity and functionality of contact tracing were present”.
“And whether improvements in contact tracing would enable that plan to be bettered and to see Victorians having their livelihoods and their lives restored sooner,” he said.
Mr Morrison said he and the National Cabinet had been kept in the dark prior to the roadmap’s release and that the federal government will now interrogate the Victorian government over its plans.
“We’ll listen carefully and we’ll faithfully convey all of that feedback,” he said.
“As I said, I hope it’s a starting point. I hope we can move more quickly than that.”
PM says NSW the ‘gold standard’
Mr Morrison repeatedly referenced NSW’s current contact tracing regime, referring to the state as the “gold standard”.
"In NSW, their special emergency operations centre is an integrated operation which involves health.
“It's actually led by the police in NSW. It certainly has health central to its operations, but there are many parts of government when you're dealing with a crisis of this nature, which need to be brought together.
"Health is vital, and the way I think NSW has integrated the health response with all of these others is proving to be very successful.
"If we can assist any state, approach that and achieve that New South Wales standard, then I think many of the restrictions that we're seeing around the country wouldn't be necessary."
NSW has managed to suppress cases to below 20 since the Crossroads Hotel cluster began in early July.
Mr Morrison said if NSW was to be subject to the roadmap, the state would now be under curfew.
“What I can't help but be struck by is that, under the thresholds that have been set in that plan, Sydney would be under curfew now,” he said.
Mr Andrews rejected that claim, saying there had not been widespread community transmission in NSW.
"Common sense tells you, if you ask our contact tracers to win an unfair fight, well then they won't," he told reporters in Melbourne.
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