Public sentiment has shifted against key lockdown rules in Melbourne with a significant majority against the 5km travel limits and majority support for allowing families to reunite and cafes, restaurants and pubs to open for COVID-safe services.
There are also growing calls to allow students in years 7-10 to return to school, following a call by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to act after seeing a letter from doctors warning kids as young as 12 are being put on antidepressants during lockdown.
“We have to do something. Now,” prominent child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg added on Wednesday.
Pollster Gary Morgan, running for Melbourne Mayor against incumbent Sally Capp, is calling for an immediate stage two trial in Melbourne’s CBD, claiming his own polling showed public sentiment had shifted drastically in light of expert advice.
“A significant majority are now against the 5km limit, against the ban on dining and against the ban on not seeing family and friends. Andrews has a high approval because everyone on JobKeeper and the public service are getting paid and happy as can be.”
More than 60 per cent of those polled are against the 5km limit, up 11 per cent in two weeks; 56 per cent support restaurants opening up safely, up 19 per cent; and 59 per cent support family visits, a rise of 4 per cent.
Polling has shown political leaders have enjoyed high popularity for closing borders and imposing lockdowns and the Roy Morgan research shows Mr Andrews still enjoys 61 per cent support for the job he has done as Premier.
But Mr Andrews has suffered a 9 per cent fall in three weeks, tarnished in the wake of the hotel quarantine inquiry and resignation of his Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.
Victoria recorded an increase of 11 cases on Wednesday. Active cases fell to 302, of which 147 were in aged care, and another 46 were healthcare workers.
Mr Andrews urged Melburnians to hang tough until October 19. To further ease restrictions, Melbourne must reach less than five mystery cases over a 14-day period and reach a rolling five day average of five cases.
“We’re very close, we are three weeks from being able to take significant steps to reopening,” Mr Andrews said. “I know these numbers are coming down and that’s a great thing, but you’ve got to resist the temptation to [do this too quickly].”
The hospitality industry has delivered the Andrews government a detailed “gold standard health and wellbeing plan” for reopening. Whispir founder Jeromy Wells said tech companies like his and 1Breadcrumb offer solutions which could supplement the use of Salesforce, which Mr Andrews has engaged.
Whispir was used in the reopening at Mount Buller – with the tech platform texting people a QR code without the need for an app – and resort CEO Mark Bennetts said it created “a digital visitor record and eliminated the need for visitors to manually record all their details.”
The data shows the main challenge facing policy and decision makers will be to encourage people to eat, shop and spend again, after fear of the virus has paralysed the community.
A report from the consultants Nature finds seven months of lockdown and restrictions will have a lasting impact in Melbourne with up to 50 per cent reporting dining out and recreational activities, including sporting events and movies, will be attended less often due to financial concerns and a fear of spreading or catching COVID-19.
The fear factor is highest among 18 to 34-year olds, despite Deakin’s chair of Epidemiology Catherine Bennett predicting people are more likely to be struck by lightning in Melbourne’s streets than catch COVID in the community.
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