COVID-19

Guy blasts pandemic laws extension

The Premier’s last declaration was set to end at midnight on July 12 but will now be extended until October 12 – a month out from the state election – amid two infectious Omicron sub-variants, which have a greater ability to evade vaccine immunity, becoming the dominant strains in ­Victoria.Under the state’s new laws passed late last year, Mr Andrews must make a declaration to enable his health minister to make orders on lockdowns, isolation requirements and vaccine mandates.Many of the state’s Covid restrictions have been wound back, with masks on public transport and in rideshare ­vehicles one of the few remaining rules in place, along with a seven-day isolation for positive cases.“In making the declaration, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that there continues to be a serious risk to public health throughout Victoria due to the coronavirus disease, which requires continued public health and other protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission and hospitalisation,” Mr Andrews said. He said the extension enabled “sensible” measures to remain in place over winter. But Opposition Leader Matthew Guy slammed the decision to extend the pandemic declaration. “Victorians deserve to have control of their lives handed back,” Mr Guy said.“Today’s extension of state of emergency laws shows Daniel Andrews has no intention of doing that.“Extending these laws means a longer, slower road to recovery. “The threat of mandates, lockdowns and restrictions remain, which overshadows efforts for us to recover.”Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory have all opted to end their emergency declarations.South Australia’s emergency powers, which allowed its police commissioner to impose Covid lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates, ended in May, with the responsibility now lying with the cabinet.Tasmania ended its declaration on July 1 while the Northern Territory’s stopped on June 15, but still requires masks to be worn in high-risk settings.All three have the seven-day isolation requirement for positive cases.Queensland’s public health emergency has been extended until September 22, while Western Australia continues to extend its state of emergency fortnightly.Victoria’s extension of its pandemic powers comes as the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will discusses expanding the fourth-dose rollout to include those aged under 65. Mr Andrews said there was “some urgency” to provide a fourth dose. “ATAGI has a rather challenging job of balancing up pressure and benefit that comes from a fourth dose now or waiting for something that might have a greater degree of protection against various sub areas,” he said.

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