Premier Daniel Andrews has defended his decision to enact a curfew for Melbourne after criticism the harsh measure hasn’t helped to kerb the spread of Covid-19.
The state government enforced the curfew last month, with people in greater Melbourne required to stay home between 9pm and 5am every day.
The tough measure, which was put in place during last year’s second wave, has received widespread criticism after health experts last year admitted it made no difference in curbing the spread.
Asked on Sunday why it was necessary this time around, Mr Andrews said there were specific and targeted reasons for bringing back the curfew in the outbreak of the more infectious Delta strain.
He said road and public transport travel was down by 20 per cent during curfew hours.
“What that tells me is that it wasn’t people doing their shopping at midnight or 1am, it was people going and visiting others, which they are not allowed to do, and they were taking the virus with them, perhaps,” Mr Andrews said.
“So that‘s what the curfew achieves. It means less people out and about.”
The state opposition have called for the curfew to be abolished, which Mr Andrews labelled “political point scoring”.
“I apologise to people who can‘t go for a jog at one in the morning and apologise to people who can’t go to the supermarket at 3am,” he said.
“I think they have small prices to pay for (other people) essentially thinking that the rules don’t apply to them, going and visiting others. That’s what the curfew makes harder.”
The rule, which came into effect on August 16, has been received with scepticism from epidemiologists over its efficacy, and criticism from the police union and civil liberties group.
Last year senior health department medical adviser Michelle Giles told the Supreme Court there was no evidence a curfew in isolation was effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus during Victoria’s second wave.
ANU infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon last month said he was not aware of any evidence curfews made a difference.
Professor Collignon said the focus should be on targeted measures to mitigate spread among essential workers, such as providing face shields or other eye protection.
“To me there are other interventions that I think will have more effect that we haven’t done enough of yet,” he said.
Speaking to ABC Radio National, Doherty Institute epidemiology director Jodie McVernon said she did not believe a curfew would kerb the spread.
“Personally, I’m not aware of any evidence that proves that curfews per se are particularly efficacious,” she said.
The curfew is not in place in regional Victoria, despite areas outside of metropolitan Melbourne also being in lockdown.
As cases continued to drop in the regions this week, Mr Andrews on Saturday said those in regional and rural areas could see some lockdown reprieve next week.
The five reasons needed for leaving home would be removed, with greater economic activity allowed.
“In a form, they would be open,” he said. “It’s not going to be back to normal because we have to assume (there’s still) some virus in regional Victoria.”