Despite Victoria ‘s daily COVID-19 case numbers dropping to their lowest since June, Melbourne’s restaurants , cafes, pubs and most of its stores will remain empty for at least another week.
Premier Daniel Andrews said it was unlikely that retail and hospitality would be included in the much-anticipated announcement of the next lockdown process on Sunday, but raised the possibility of opening them on Sunday 25 October.
“It may well be that we can take further steps that weekend,” he said. “But … that’s all going to be based on some very thoughtful data.”
Next week, announcements may be made if infection levels remain low.
On Friday, only two new cases of the virus were identified, one of them involving a patient at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and no lives were lost.
A number of leading epidemiologists told The Age that hospitality could be opened safely from Sunday, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the state opposition and Victorian business groups all tried on Friday to sustain the pressure on the Premier for a quicker opening-up.
But medical experts were more sceptical about the retail sector, warning that if they were completely reopened, shopping centres could pose a risk, with Professor James McCaw of the University of Melbourne saying that a trip to Chadstone was potentially as risky as going to football.
Professor McCaw said the places where people socialise should not be shopping centres. “He said, “We need to encourage people to purchase their goods and leave,” he said.
On Sunday, the Premier pledged “significant” steps, but maintained that he and his health advisors would make “conservative” decisions.
Mr Andrews said,” “The strategy is working – the strategy is absolutely working,”
To take advantage of the most accurate data, the decision-making process is expected to go deep into Saturday night and Mr Andrews said the adjustments that will be revealed on Sunday will be in the “low-risk category.”