Open Letter to the Victorian Premier and Chief Health Officer
1 September 2021
The Hon Daniel Andrews MP
Premier of Victoria
Dr Brett Sutton
Chief Health Officer of Victoria
Dear Premier and Chief Health Officer,
The Committee for Mornington Peninsula writes to request that you include the Mornington Peninsula as part of regional Victoria for the purposes of COVID-19 restrictions in the new roadmap to reopening, to be announced shortly.
As you are aware, the Mornington Peninsula has been consistently included in the Victorian Government’s metropolitan Melbourne restrictions, despite having markedly fewer cases than our neighbouring municipalities in regional Victoria and dramatically fewer than other metropolitan municipalities.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Mornington Peninsula has had less than half the total COVID-19 case numbers than our regional neighbours in Greater Geelong, which is situated the same distance away from Melbourne and is presently much closer to the current outbreaks than the Mornington Peninsula.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 381 total COVID-19 cases reported in Greater Geelong, compared with 185 total COVID-19 cases reported on the Mornington Peninsula. Between 24 September 2020 and 22 August 2021, there were no COVID-19 cases reported on the Mornington Peninsula – representing nearly 11 months of no active COVID-19 cases, despite enduring multiple metropolitan lockdowns during this locally COVID-free period.
As of today, the Mornington Peninsula has spent 212 days under metropolitan Melbourne lockdown.
Continuing and prolonged metropolitan-level lockdowns have had a devastating effect on the Mornington Peninsula’s economy and the wellbeing of our residents, with many local businesses closed permanently or staff stood down indefinitely. This is coupled with inadequate government funding to support employers and employees, as our community grapples with the same issues as 2020 without the same support.
We were heartened to see the Mayor of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council write to you on 13 August to reinforce this view and to request “a more tailored approach to ease restrictions” on the Mornington Peninsula and “allow our community the freedoms offered to regional Victorians.”
We support Mayor O’Connor’s view that the “adoption of the Metropolitan Melbourne administrative boundary to control the spread of a pandemic does not appear to be based on current health indicators as illustrated when comparing the Mornington Peninsula Shire with regions such as the City of Greater Geelong.”
Currently active cases on the Mornington Peninsula are one quarter of those reported in Greater Geelong, with only two active cases on the Mornington Peninsula and nine active cases in Greater Geelong. Since the introduction of the Delta variant of COVID-19 to Victoria in June, Greater Geelong has reported 14 active cases, with the first case reported this year on 14 July, whereas the Mornington Peninsula has reported two, with one case diagnosed on 22 August and the other on 30 August.
Despite these low numbers, the Mornington Peninsula has experienced the following metropolitan Melbourne lockdowns this year since the introduction of Delta: Lockdown Five: 12 days over July 15 11:59pm – July 7 11:59pm and Lockdown Six: 27 days so far since August 5 8pm. The Mornington Peninsula has so far experienced a total of 58 days this year under official metropolitan Melbourne lockdown – 48 of which we have had zero active cases in our municipality.
We note the Victorian Government was able to include the Mitchell Shire along with metropolitan Melbourne in last year’s public health orders and later move it back to regional Victorian-level restrictions. We request a similar exercise be applied to the Mornington Peninsula by excluding our Shire from metropolitan Melbourne lockdown through an amendment to the public health orders.
If our municipality is not to be included as part of regional Victoria for the purposes of public health orders, we request an explanation as to why, according to the public health advice or reasonable government direction, as our community deserves an explanation.
We do not accept limiting movement between other metropolitan areas and the Mornington Peninsula as a justification for continuing to lock down the Mornington Peninsula with metropolitan Melbourne. Including the Mornington Peninsula as part of regional Victoria would enable enforcement of regional travel restrictions through border controls and limit the movement that has occurred throughout every lockdown, where Melburnians typically travel to their holiday homes on the Mornington Peninsula to make it their primary residence during lockdowns.
We also do not accept our proximity to other municipalities with high numbers of active cases as a justification for our inclusion in the ongoing metropolitan Melbourne lockdown. Greater Geelong is situated adjacent to Hobsons Bay, which currently has 141 active COVID-19 cases. The Mornington Peninsula’s is neighboured by Casey City, which has has zero, Frankston City, which has two and Bass Coast Shire, which has zero active cases.
Now that the Victorian Government and expert health advisers are developing another Victorian roadmap out of COVID-19 in line with the National Four Phase Plan you contributed and agreed to, we request the Mornington Peninsula be included in regional Victorian restrictions.
We would appreciate a considered and timely response to the concerns and suggestions we have raised in this letter, which are representative of widely held views among Mornington Peninsula residents.