‘No choice’ but to shut Vic construction

September 21, 2021 BY

Protest: Victoria has 603 new COVID-19 cases, as the construction industry is shut down for two weeks. Photo: JAMES ROSS/ AAP IMAGE

THERE was “no choice” but to shut down swathes of Victoria’s construction industry because of the spread of COVID-19 and low public health compliance, the State Government says.

Health minister Martin Foley on Tuesday defended a late-night decision to close down construction in locked-down Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Mitchell Shire and the Surf Coast.

An official Government statement declaring the shutdown was not issued until 10pm on Monday night, effective at midnight.

Mr Foley said for weeks the Government had been warning of high cases linked to construction sites, with outbreaks taking hold in a young and mobile workforce.

“As a result of these figures, the public health team was left with no choice but to hit the pause button and continue working with the sector over these next two weeks to improve compliance,” Mr Foley told reporters.

There are 403 cases directly linked to construction, from 186 work sites, he said.

Of those, 151 sites are in metropolitan Melbourne with 362 connected cases, including 49 people who live in regional Victoria.

An audit of about 200 construction sites on Thursday found 73 per cent were failing to comply with health directions.

The shutdown followed a violent protest outside the CFMEU’s head office in central Melbourne.

Mr Foley said Monday’s violence was “deplorable and an insult to every Victorian who has been doing the right thing”, but the decision to shut down the industry was influenced by data.

An amnesty will be in place on Tuesday so a limited number of workers can attend construction sites to shut them down safely.

The Government said all sites would need to demonstrate compliance with the chief health officer’s directions before reopening, including proof workers have had at least one dose of a vaccine before they return to work on 5 October.

The Property Council of Australia said the shutdown would cost the economy $1.1 billion a week.

Treasurer and industrial relations minister Tim Pallas said the Government was still working out the financial fallout of the closure.

The protests continued on Tuesday, with the riot squad and mounted police facing off with a hi-vis wearing crowd of mostly young men.

The CFMEU Victorian construction branch secretary John Setka described the protests as “absolutely outrageous”.

“We’ve tried to keep our members all working and … because of a handful of drunken idiots there’s 300,000-plus workers sitting at home for at least the next two weeks,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

The shutdown began on the same day Victoria recorded 603 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

It is the highest daily tally in the current outbreak and since August 2020.

The total number of active cases in the state to 6000 and the number of death from this outbreak to 13.

Among the latest cases is an outbreak in an aged care facility.

There are now 15 cases linked to the Meadow Heights aged care home – 11 staff and four residents.

Chief health officer Brett Sutton said 94 per cent of staff at the home were fully vaccinated and the remainder had had their first dose, while 77 per cent of residents were fully vaccinated, some were partially inoculated, and the remainder had declined.

Affected residents are being transferred out of the facility.

The state’s roadmap out of lockdown was released on Sunday, detailing small changes to restrictions when 80 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received a single vaccine dose.

Melbourne’s lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians are double-vaccinated, a target that could be reached about October 26.

 

– BY AAP

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