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Immediate exit strategy needed to end Victorian lockdown

"Victorians deserve and need a clear and immediate exit strategy to quickly get out of an extended lockdown that appears increasingly unnecessary and is causing needless economic, mental health and health damage," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

"There appears to be no justification to keep an entire city of 5 million people in a prolonged lockdown for a handful of connected cases each day.

"Victoria faces both a health and an economic challenge but its economy, already lagging on virtually every key indicator, is again being needlessly smashed.  When Victoria fails, Australia suffers.

"This lockdown has been marked by exaggerated language and doomsday prophesies from Victoria’s health leaders that have not come to pass.  Case numbers are low, hospitals have not been overwhelmed and there have been no deaths. Health workers are doing an outstanding job and Victorians are lining up for COVID tests and vaccines.

"Business understands the importance of following health advice, but, as is often said, when the facts change you should change your mind and the facts have changed.

"We need to rely on the health advice but we do not get to see it. We do not know the difference between “elimination” and “aggressive suppression”.  Greater transparency with health advice would lead to greater trust and build community confidence in decision-making.

"Initially we heard the lockdown would be reviewed hour-by-hour but then we were told health advice meant there was no choice in extending for an extra week.  Rather than doubling down on the extended lockdown, there would be no loss of face if the lockdown for Melbourne was immediately downgraded to the types of restrictions now applying in regional Victoria.

"Victorians can see no strategy except that they face the prospect of lockdown after lockdown for years to come.  This is not sustainable for Victoria’s economy and its state of mind.

"The hard reality is Covid will be with us for a long time no matter the vaccination rate.  We need to adapt to it and not be driven by the catatrosphisation of health and associated officials who risk rapidly losing community and business goodwill and confidence.

"People by and large are taking precautions seriously.  There should be greater faith in the community’s ability to maintain the necessary mask wearing and social distancing measures while opening the city to commerce and restricted social activities.

"We also have much greater faith in our testing and tracing capabilities and we encourage government to have equally more confidence in its own systems.

"By Ai Group’s estimates, every day the hard lockdown continues will cost the state’s businesses close to $360 million in lost or deferred consumer spending.

"A handful of cases a day out of a population of more than 5 million people needs to be balanced against the enormous cost of full lockdown on people’s lives, their children’s education, mental health and jobs and business activity," Mr Willox said.

Further comment: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347