As many hundreds of Victorians are infected with COVID-19 each day, and the death toll inexorably climbs, the need to do more has become inevitable. This is no longer purely a Victorian crisis. Premier Daniel Andrews may have declared a state of disaster, but this is a national emergency.
With outbreaks having spread to other states, the health of Australia must come first. It was time for the Victorian government to act, and it did. The Age supports the changes in the hope that by restricting our freedom of movement in the short term, we flatten the COVID-19 curve that threatens to overrun the nation.
The economic consequences of this lockdown will be enormous, and that too comes with its own knock-on effects on people’s financial, emotional and physical wellbeing. We call on the state government to carefully calibrate the business restrictions it plans to roll out this week, maximising the health benefits of tackling outbreaks in particular industries – such as meatworks – while minimising the impact on the supply of services.
For those in metropolitan Melbourne, the new restrictions are tough. Declaring a state of disaster, night curfews and the inability to travel beyond five kilometres from home are rules more associated with martial law. For those in regional Victoria, the move to stage three restrictions as a consequence of a virus most associated with the city will be a bitter pill to swallow.
There is certainly some ‘‘shock and awe’’, as Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, described it. But that is obviously what the Victorian government was hoping for. Complacency had set in. The effectiveness of the stage three restrictions in Melbourne had run its course. They had succeeded in slowing the spread but not quashing the virus.
The blame can probably be shared. When teams doorknocked across Melbourne to check on those who had tested positive, a quarter were not home. People continued to go to work with symptoms that should have sent them straight to a testing site. Not wearing a mask and crossing restricted borders had become an act of defiance worthy of social media attention.
Australia is not alone in battling an increase in infections despite once thinking the worst was behind it. Last week, Japan set a daily record of more than 1000 infections for the first time since the pandemic began. Hong Kong, Israel and Spain are also battling rising infection rates. And with a death toll that has now surged past 150,000, America is ground zero for the horrific consequences of a divided country unwilling to commit to the actions needed to restrict COVID-19’s spread.
But unlike some other nations, Australia still appears willing to make the sacrifice to bring this pandemic under control. While there have been sporadic outbreaks of bickering between levels of government, the public has made it clear it has no time for such politics as usual. We welcome the unity shown in the messages from Andrews, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
It was Mr Morrison who once said, ‘‘We are all Melburnians now.’’ It is more true than ever. Victoria needs the support of the nation. If we fail to suppress the virus, the rest of Australia will struggle to keep it out.