When Daniel Andrews released Victoria’s roadmap out of hard lockdown, Melburnians who had not seen family members for months circled October 26 in their calendars.
It was on that date, the Premier said, that a controversial rule restricting movement to a 5km radius would be scrapped.
There was more good news to come. Lower than expected COVID-19 case numbers triggered a change to the roadmap. The third step, which included the removing of travel limits, was being moved forward by a week to October 19. Another circle in the calendar.
The day of the announcement is finally here, but the details of the roadmap are blurrier than before. Which is one of the reasons Melburnians are clinging to every hint from the Premier’s daily press conferences about just what might be included in the next step.
He gave a big hint last week when discussing the next steps.
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“They will allow us to connect more easily with those that we love the most,” he said.
Most fair-minded Victorians interpreted that in only one way — that the 5km limit keeping families apart would be lifted.
The six words — “they will allow us to connect” — have been an incentive for Victorians to continue to do the right thing in the face of fatigue and anxiety and hardship, both personal and financial.
But on Thursday, there was news that 5km rule might not be scrapped, but rather extended. Victoria’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Allen Cheng said the radius could be broadened to 20km. The Herald Sun is also reporting this morning the 20km radius will be part of eased restrictions.
It is good news for those who live within 40km of family who can meet half way. But metropolitan Melbourne encompasses 31 local government areas and, within those, there will no doubt be plenty who miss out — forced to watch from the sidelines as long-awaited reunions take place.
“Sigh, 20km won’t do much for us,” one woman wrote to me this week.
“Nope, won’t help me,” another wrote.
A Melbourne woman wrote that she “gets it” but it will be hard to watch others reunite when she cannot.
“My mum hasn’t seen us or our kids since March,” she told me. “We are in Melbourne but she is in Geelong. I get it but it is still sad.”
The Premier, who has led Victoria through a second wave peak that topped out at 725 new cases in a single day, acknowledges that the decisions leading to today’s announcement are “the most difficult decisions that I’ve made in 20 years in public life”.
“And they may well be some of the most difficult decisions that I will ever make,” he said on Friday.
He thanked Victorians for their hard work and their sacrifice in driving cases down to single digits. But he would not budge on the specifics of what will come next.
“We will make some significant announcements on Sunday, I cannot tell you what they are today,” he said.
“We will still be looking at the most contemporary data, the latest picture, right into Saturday evening.
“But on Sunday I hope to be able to speak about the week after. To continue to update all of Victoria on what rules will be in place, what behaviours will need to be maintained, what behaviour is posing the greatest risk in further infections.
“We have come such a long way, and the most impressive thing is that there is a determination in the Victorian community to not fritter away all the great gains we’ve made.”
His message to those who have fought alongside him and trusted him was simple.
“We have stayed the course, we have not let our frustration got the better of us. We have made a conscious decision to defeat this second wave and we have found that in ourselves to deal with the pain and the challenges of lockdown, we found it within ourselves to look out for each other while staying apart from each other. This is no small thing. This is no small thing.
“We haven’t listened to the loudest voices, we haven’t lost our nerve, we as a community, are staying the course. And that’s how you go from 725 cases to two cases.”