Daniel Andrews is blasted fining anti-lockdown protesters but not families behind COVID-19 cluster
Premier Dan Andrews has come under fire for ‘toxic double standards’ after refusing to fine five families behind a COVID-19 cluster while punishing protesters as Victoria’s case numbers continue to fall.
Victorian police issued 21 fines and arrested 16 demonstrators as up to 150 people clashed with officers during a rally in Elsternwick and Elwood, 11km from Melbourne‘s CBD, on Saturday.
But at a press conference earlier that day, Mr Andrews defended his decision not to punish those believed to have sparked behind a coronavirus cluster by breaching restrictions.
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien has slammed the move as ‘hypocrisy’.
Daniel Andrews (pictured) has been slammed for double standards after fining anti-lock-down protesters but refusing to punish those behind a COVID-19 cluster in Melbourne’s southeast
‘Andrews shouldn’t be protecting those who spread the virus while fining others … Labor’s double standards are as toxic as this virus,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘It’s a disgrace that Labor has locked up innocent Victorians under a curfew while those who break the law and spread the virus get off scot- free.
‘This is the same Andrews hypocrisy that saw teenagers fined for learning to drive while 10,000 Black Lives Matter protesters were ignored.’
Victoria recorded 14 new cases and five deaths on Sunday, the lowest daily increase since June and the tenth day in a row the state has recorded a daily infections increase below 50.
Meanwhile, public health authorities racing to stop infections growing in the Casey and Dandenong council areas on the Melbourne’s southeast rim, which now has 90 active cases.
Five households in Clyde, Cranbourne North, Hallam and Narre Warren South are linked to 34 active cases.
Mr Andrews said fining the families may prevent them from being co-operative during contact-tracing interviews.
‘I’m happy to concede that might seem a counterintuitive point. Perhaps we would all feel a bit better if they got slapped with a fine, but the value of the information that allows you to take one test result and then find the 33 other people who’ve got it, is much more than $1652,’ he said.
Health authorities are urging anyone in the southeast of Melbourne to diligently monitor their health and immediately get tested if feeling unwell
Mr O’Brien last week introduced a motion of no confidence into parliament in a bid to oust the Premier, arguing the Andrews government had lost support of Victorians over its handling of the pandemic.
On Saturday, Victoria recorded 21 new cases of COVID-19 and a further seven deaths as Daniel Andrews urged covidiots not to gather at planned protests across the city or ‘do anything to undermine’ its progress with tackling COVID-19.
Metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day average has plummeted and now sits at 39.3 as the state moves to a COVID normal. In regional Victoria, the 14-day average is at just 1.9.
Metropolitan Melbourne is under strict Stage Four lockdown – limiting Melburnians travelling more than 5km from their homes and enforcing a 9pm to 5am curfew.
The premier did not comment on where Saturday demonstrations would be, with protesters taking caution when sharing information online.
Multiple rallies have taken place in Melbourne the past few weekends.
Victoria Police have responded with a heavy presence – handing out dozens of fines and making arrests.
‘Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this week we have seen, day after day, not the 725 cases we had five and a half weeks ago – we have made very significant progress,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘We’ve got regional Victoria opening up. People should be positive and optimistic this strategy is working, and therefore, let’s not any of us do anything to undermine that.’
The cluster which has impacted the five households in Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North, first emerged on September 4
A surge of cases in the Casey and Dandenong area has been linked back to five households in the Afghan community.
As residents in the city are still under strict Stage Four lockdown, it is thought the infected group may have breached the stay-at-home orders.
Health authorities are scrambling to track and trace the new surge in cases, and the Victorian government has begun a recruitment drive which sees retired officers re-enlisted to bolster the state’s frontline virus efforts.
‘Members of those households visiting other households,’ Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said.
‘It is that limited amount of contact, relatively infrequent contact between these five households that has now meant that we have 34 people in five houses experiencing or living with a very real threat of the coronavirus.’
The cluster – impacting five households in Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North – first emerged on September 4.
Cases in the southeast have now spread to Dandenong Police Station and a number of industrial work sites.
The Casey and Dandenong cluster is testing the capacity of COVID-detectives. Pictured: Heath workers are seen at a coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17
The success of Melbourne’s ongoing lockdown could be at risk with a new cluster in the southeast of the city. Pictured: A coronavirus testing centre in Cranbourne on September 17
Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday said the actions of the family’s involved in the cluster was ‘disappointing’.
‘Five kilometres is one thing and visiting others is the real issue here,’ he said.
‘The rules are in place for a reason and anyone who undermines this, undermines the entire strategy and it means the rules will be on for longer.’
The Victorian leader, however, ruled out fines for the group, telling reporters it may discourage others from being completely honest with contact tracers.
‘I know many Victorians, when you see examples of people not following the rules, that’s disappointing, it makes you angry,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘You need to look at the bigger picture here.
‘We don’t want a situation where people don’t have a sense of confidence and indeed, you know, the sense they’re obliged to tell us the full story as quickly as possible. That’s what we need.’
Despite the new cluster, Victoria’s overall case numbers are continuing to decline.
A man with a dog is seen being questioned by two police officers in the Dandenong area