Most of us are aware of the Doherty Institute modelling, which gives Victoria tangible targets to hit. The Federal Government also released a high-level plan of what that might mean for businesses to open up, but it was quite deliberately a framework rather than a detailed plan. Now it’s up to the state government to fill in the blanks and provide the detail, benchmarks and goals to give all Victorians certainty and hope.
The Victorian Chamber proposes a four-phase plan that covers the immediate and then what happens at 70 and 80 per cent. The NSW, Victorian and federal governments need to agree on this plan to protect border towns – and our economies and communities more broadly. It doesn’t benefit any Australian for Victoria and NSW to be running at cross purposes.
We have couched our plan within the parameters of restriction changes previously used by the public health team. The immediate imperative and phase one of our plan – in the next week or so – should be to open up all local government areas in regional Victoria that have had no trace of COVID-19 for 14 days and allow businesses there to trade safely in restricted settings.
We have seen the reports of compliance slipping, and we can’t allow that to happen if we want to open up sooner. Let’s be COVID-safe, use QR codes and get tested then stay home if you’re unwell. This will help give our public health team greater confidence to open up.
Phase two: once Victoria has reached 80 per cent of first dose vaccination levels, the State Government could give us hope by shifting to pre-lockdown 5 restrictions with density quotients at 25 per cent and government support tapering off. Students must be back at school for the resumption of term four.
Phase three: at 70 per cent fully vaccinated, Victoria should progress to pre-Valentine’s Day settings.
Then phase four: at 80 per cent, we go further effectively COVID normal. Where business can trade and we can see our family and friends at home, interstate and abroad the way we used to.
To future-proof this plan, the federal government should commit to fund, as the state has, an mRNA facility to produce the necessary vaccines that we will need going forward. We all know that when it comes to med and biotech Victoria leads the way, just as we can with our road map out of lockdown.
What we all know is that we need to finish this race against COVID-19. We are on the final straight, but we can’t get to the finish line while we are stuck on the COVID-19 treadmill.
Paul Guerra is the chief executive officer of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.