The federal government kept up the pressure on the Premier to take significant steps out of lockdown on Sunday, with Health Minister Greg Hunt saying Victoria had met the public health benchmarks needed to open up to the same extent as NSW.
Mr Hunt’s local colleagues were also keeping up their call, backed by the state’s business groups, for large-scale reopening of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
The Premier said with the 14-day rolling average of new daily infection numbers down to 8.6, the state was “so close” to returning to a position close to normality, but sought to manage expectations of businesses hoping to throw open their doors on Monday.
“We’re so close, so close to being out and open up and get people back to work, get people back connected to the people they love the most,” Mr Andrews said.
The Premier, who said he and his health advisers would be working into the night on the decisions to be announced on Sunday, warned that the continued “significant” number of mystery cases – infections of no known source – could prove a stumbling block on the path out of lockdown.
“Mystery cases remain a challenge for us – 17 [in 14 days], that is a significant number,” Mr Andrews said.
Earlier in the day, Mr Hunt tweeted his call for Victoria to open up to NSW levels.
“The epidemiological conditions for a COVID safe reopening of hospitality, movement and family reunions among others, have now been firmly met,” the minister said.
“Vic should now be able to move to the next step in line with NSW.”
Mr Hunt’s comments were met with a stinging response from the Premier.
“Whatever I stand up here tomorrow and announce, there will be members of that federal government, some who are from Victoria, but I don’t think they’re for Victoria, who will be out there saying ‘it is not enough, you should have done more,” he said.
State Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he was very concerned about the indication that nothing would be announced on Sunday to help small business and called on the government to move closer to NSW-style restrictions.
“We should be seeing our kids, all our kids, years 8, 9 and 10 going back to school, we should be seeing the five-kilometre limit abolished, we should be seeing the four reasons for leaving your home abolished too, they serve no particularly good purpose,” Mr O’Brien said.
“We should be seeing retail and hospitality re-opening, yes with masks, yes with density rules but they need the chance to get back into business because the community needs them there.”
Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age