Victoria’s 7-day Lockdown Could Cause $1 Billion Economic Loss

Victoria has recorded four more COVID-19 cases on the first day of its seven-day lockdown, bringing the total case of the Whittlesea cluster to 30.

This is the fourth lockdown of the state in 15 months. It is also longer and more widespread than the one in mid-February, which lasted for five days.

The Victorian government has been pushing the blame for the lockdown to the federal government.

James Merlino, the acting Premier of Victoria, blamed the federal government for the latest outbreak on Thursday, saying that there was no hotel quarantine alternative and efficient vaccination for the state.

“If we had an alternative to hotel quarantine for this particular variant of concern, we would not be here today,” Merlino said. “If we had the Commonwealth’s vaccine program effectively rolled out, we may well not be here today.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who supported the state to build another 500-bed quarantine facility and said Victoria had ample vaccine supplies, denied the direct link between the inefficiency of vaccine rollout and the lockdown.

“It’s hard to reconcile that with the international experience,” he said when answering a journalist’s question.

“When you look at countries around the world, which had far worse COVID experiences and of course entered into their vaccination programme in emergency measures, well before Australia, whether that’s in Canada, whether it’s in France, particularly now what we’re seeing in Singapore, then it’s hard to marry that with the international experience.”

The prime minister further encouraged the public to get vaccinated.

“This is another, a further reminder, I think, to Australians about the importance of getting vaccinated,” he said. “Make a booking, talk to your doctor, please get vaccinated.”

Lobby group Small Business Australia estimated that the seven-day lockdown would cost Victoria $1 billion in economic loss, while the Grattan Institute put the number at $900 million, ABC reported.

“The lockdown is longer and more widespread than the one imposed in mid‑February.  People’s mobility is expected to decline again from its pandemic high,” analysts from the Commonwealth Bank told ABC.

The state government has promised a support package for small businesses impacted by the lockdown. For the last lockdown in February, the Victorian government provided a $143 million package for businesses impacted.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the federal government would give a helping hand financially if needed.

“We will work hand-in-glove with the Victorian government to provide whatever support we can to help people through another difficult period,” he said.

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