Melbourne’s lockdown has been extended a further seven days after seeing six confirmed cases overnight, acting premier James Merlino announced this afternoon, taking the states total to 60.
According to Merlino, the variant strain of Covid-19 currently in the community is quicker and more contagious than any the state’s health officials have seen before.
“If we let this thing run it’s course, it will explode. We’ve got to run this to ground because if we don’t, people will die,” said Merlino, according to the ABC.
“This is about saving lives.”
The State Government also boosted its business support package to $460 million in an effort to help businesses survive the next week, but some are asking the Federal Government to step in.
Paul Zahra, chief executive of Australian Retailers Association, said retailers are set to lose $2 billion in missed sales over the next week of lockdown, and need more assistance than is currently being doled out by the state.
“We understand and respect the importance of these health imperatives, however it’s a bitter blow for the people of Victoria who’ve suffered more than most through this pandemic,” Zahra said.
“Victoria can’t do this alone. The Federal Government has done a great job to keep businesses afloat through JobKeeper and we need them to step up to the plate again.”
Zahra called on the Federal Government to reintroduce a JobKeeper-esque scheme, targeted at the businesses most in need, given the back-end systems were already created and could simply be switched back on.
“This isn’t just about Victoria. This is about other states and territories who might have to deal with state-imposed lockdowns and restrictions, should new cases emerge in the community,” Zahra said.
“We were starting to think that the worst of Covid was behind us. Sadly, that’s not the case.”
It’s unlikely Zahra’s plea will amount to much, however. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government has already delivered three times as much support to Victorians as the State Government had, and that its response to the current lockdown is ‘firm’.
“We have put as a government an unprecedented amount of support into Victoria and we have existing programs and existing support,” Frydenberg said.
“I will speak to the Treasurer from Victoria [and] we will consider that request.”