Monday, February 15, 2021
Opinion Pieces

Herald Sun: Victoria still embarrassingly behind NSW’s COVID response thanks to Daniel Andrews

On Sunday, NSW had zero active cases of the virus. In fact, Sunday marked 28 days without a locally acquired case of coronavirus in NSW, the first time it achieved this since the pandemic began.

On January 11, NSW had 201 active cases of COVID-19. All this was achieved since its December outbreak, without a statewide lockdown and silly directions like mandatory masks outdoors.

Compare that to the omnishambles that is our state’s tragic response to this virus — 22 active cases from yet another avoidable transmission at a quarantine hotel and Victorians are once again locked up, children to be schooled at home, and businesses closed for the first time since October.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Because of the northern beaches outbreak in Sydney, a number of local government areas were locked down over Christmas. Why did Gladys Berejiklian resist the urge to take a sledgehammer to the whole NSW economy over the busiest time of year for hospitality and retail?

Because she has a world-class public health, case management and contact tracing team that has been utterly brilliant in getting the virus under control. This enabled her to have a balanced, measured and proportionate response to an outbreak.

NSW has done most of the heavy lifting for quarantining returning Australians — almost 125,000 since March last year, compared to barely 36,000 in Victoria. NSW has had fewer than 5000 cases of COVID-19 compared to more than 20,000 in Victoria, so it’s becoming a little difficult for Daniel Andrews to put all this down to bad luck.

NSW will continue to take more than 3000 returned Australians this week. Victoria will take zero.

Victorians don’t need reminding of the hideous four-month-long lockdown we endured last year because of the failings of our state government in managing hotel quarantine and the utterly shambolic state of our contacttracing system.

No one will forget the lies from ministers at the very expensive but largely useless Coate inquiry, regarding that fateful decision to use untrained private security guards to manage hotel quarantine. Unlike NSW, which used the ADF, Victoria used untrained private security that resulted in COVID-19 transmission into the community, resulting in more than 800 tragic deaths in a highly avoidable second wave.

Daniel Andrews promised us lessons had been learnt from what caused the second wave, and his Hotel Quarantine Minister, Lisa Neville, promised a parliamentary inquiry virus transmission from quarantine hotels couldn’t possibly happen again.

But the avoidance of accountability, the sheer arrogance of refusing to admit error, and the outright lying by the Andrews government continues where it left off at the Coate inquiry hearings.

Last Tuesday, Andrews had the hide to claim Victoria’s hotel quarantine system is “worthy of being copied by others, and it is, and if it was anything other than leading, this is not about boasting, this is just a fact, if it was anything other than one of the best systems … if it was anything other than a good system, then I doubt very much that other first ministers across the country would have agreed to copy it!”

I am surprised Premier Berejiklian didn’t pack up laughing when Ben Fordham asked her to respond on Sydney radio last week. She very politely said: “All I’ll say is he’s pretty good at spin.”

Can you believe the hubris and arrogance of our Premier? By Friday, Andrews was locking the entire state down again because his “gold standard” hotel quarantine system allowed a returned traveller to use a nebuliser in his room spreading the virus everywhere.

Andrews’ contact tracing team had once again failed again too.

At two meetings of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, Brett Sutton was asked to explain why “almost half of the close contacts from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel cluster were not contacted within the benchmark of 48 hours on Tuesday”.

Andrews’ attempted distraction was to try to explain his hotel quarantine and contact tracing failures by asserting the UK strain of COVID is “very, very different”. The UK strain is more infectious, but a person who is infected with the UK strain of coronavirus will pass the virus on to 14.7 per cent of their close contacts, compared to 11 per cent for the Wuhan strain.

Is Andrews trying to argue the UK strain isn’t present in Sydney’s quarantine hotels? NSW has managed to keep this new strain of the virus under control because its system truly is the “gold standard.”

Andrews told us on Friday Victorians will be locked down until Wednesday, so why are Brett Sutton’s directions lawfully valid until February 26?

In replying to a question of mine on Twitter, he said the restrictions “should” be lifted on Wednesday after a “review”.

This makes me nervous. We have seen time and time again how our state government fails to ease restrictions, even with very few cases.

My message to Daniel Andrews is simple. Can you please call Gladys today and ask her to send the officials who are running hotel quarantine in Sydney to Melbourne and get them to teach Victorian officials how to manage our program safely?

Can you do the same for the contact-tracing team too?

After you’ve done that Dan, please resign.

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