The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said today’s news of the rollback of Covid restrictions is an announcement that is “one of the most overdue decisions in living memory”.
Mr Walsh said considering Victoria’s extraordinarily high vaccination rates there has been no excuse to drag out implementing changes The Nationals have been demanding for weeks.
He said it has also been “incredibly disappointing but typical of Daniel Andrews” that some of the decisions about restrictions and mandates should never have been imposed in the first place.
“School children should never have been wearing masks, it made no sense, it was divisive,” Mr Walsh said. “And we never need to see ‘experts’ banning children from playgrounds and parks.
“Vaccine mandates, except in high-risk settings, should have been gone weeks ago, close contact isolation rules should have been eased weeks ago,” he said.
“These decisions have had real impacts on families, on children and on businesses and so we need to now look to the future.”
But Mr Walsh said the Andrews Labor Government must still be held to account “for running the most incompetent Covid strategy in Australia”.
“You don’t have to look far to see the impacts of failure upon failure in Victoria – the mental health impacts; the social impacts and the economic impacts,” Mr Walsh said.
“With the state, the country and the world, reopening only Daniel Andrews can try and justify retaining any vaccine mandates, masks on public transport and in airports and planes,” he said.
“It’s a joke when people have to maintain social distancing at airport check-ins to then be shoehorned into the confined interior of a plane where you are all over each other for an hour or a day at a time.
“There’s got to be some common sense in all these decisions, and we didn’t see any here, from the snap lockdowns on New Year’s Eve to being the most locked down state in the world.”
Some of the main changes coming into effect on Friday, ahead of the Anzac Day long weekend, are:
- The vaccinated economy to end and Covid household contacts are free to leave home.
- From 11.59pm Friday, vaccination status will no longer be required for patrons to enter pubs and cafes, and check-ins with QR codes will be scrapped.
- Masks will no longer be needed in primary schools, retailers and hospitality.
- Close contacts of Covid cases will not be required to quarantine, as long as they wear a mask indoors and avoid high-risk areas. But they will need to take five negative rapid tests across seven days, and health authorities recommend close contacts work from home if possible.
- Major events with more than 30,000 people will no longer need approval from public health officials.
All positive steps, Mr Walsh said, but too little and way too late.
“People can ask questions of my party, of our Liberal colleagues about ongoing vaccination, about personal safety, about high-risk settings but when we are all kept in the dark by a Government running the biggest PR machine in Australian politics – at your expense – it’s hard to have any answers,” he added.