This week, the frustration and pain of state-wide lockdowns is being felt once more in regional Victoria.
The recent outbreak of the virus in Melbourne has led the State Government to implement a full state-wide lockdown. Businesses are shut, bars and restaurants are wasting stock, and kids are missing school, with many unable to learn home from home. Some people are unable to work, and those struggling financially will be unable to pay rent.
Compared to previous state-wide lockdowns, it’s easier to understand why the State Government has made this decision. There have been thousands of close contacts and hundreds of confirmed exposure sites around the state, including a football game in Cohuna. However, to my mind, the decision to lockdown all of regional Victoria still does not stack up.
From the perspective of the Commonwealth Government, a trigger for consideration of a hotspot in a rural or regional area is a rolling 3-day average of 3 locally acquired cases per day. This threshold has not been reached. In fact, we have not had a single case of community spread in regional Victoria.
Deakin University chair in epidemiology Catherine Bennett said evaluation of the growing data sets from previous state lockdowns is proving that they are an unnecessary safety net, only required in extreme circumstances. In relation to the current lockdown, she said there was no evidence showing why the restrictions should apply to regional Victorians.
The State Government indicated that their contact tracers have already managed to isolate 10,000 close contacts. This is an extraordinary feat, and this work will go a long way to containing the spread of the virus.
We do need to bring in lockdowns, but only for the people who have a real risk of exposure to the virus and that’s why our testing and tracing regimes are so important. We need to trust systems we have in place to handle these outbreaks, instead of resorting to snap lockdowns.
This situation speaks to the absolute necessity of being tested if you display cold and flu symptoms and getting the vaccine as soon as it is available to you. No one can escape this virus, and we cannot afford to become complacent.