Ex-prime minister Tony Abbott has criticised Australia's handling of the coronavirus crisis and accused Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews of wanting to
Mr Abbott questioned whether strict lockdowns have been proportionate to the health risks, and said he hoped international borders would reopen by Christmas
Speaking at the Policy Exchange think tank in London on Tuesday, Mr Abbott blamed the ‘extraordinary ineptitude of the Victorian Government in the management of its hotel quarantine system’ for Australia’s outbreak.
But he said what followed had been world’s second-harshest lockdown after Wuhan implemented by officials ‘stuck in crisis mode’ and ‘unaccountable experts’.
Mr Abbott’s comments comes as new modelling suggests cases in coronavirus-stricken Victoria could fall to as little as just 10 a day within a week.
Adrian Esterman, a biostatistics and epidemiology professor from the University of South Australia claimed current trends showed the virus was dwindling far quicker than it rose just six weeks ago at the height of the crisis in Australia.
‘I think cases could be as low as ten by next weekend, but we simply won’t know for the next two or three days,’ Professor Esterman said.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott wearing a protective mask leaving the Policy Exchange event where he spoke on September 1
The last time Victoria recorded fewer than 70 infections in the space of a day was on July 3
Mr Abbott, who is tipped to become joint president of Britain’s relaunched Board of Trade, slammed harsh restrictions and said people should be free to make their own decisions.
‘From a health perspective, this pandemic has been serious. From an economic perspective, it has been disastrous,’ he said.
‘But I suspect that, from an overall wellbeing perspective, it will turn out worst of all.
‘Because this is what happens when, for much more than a mere moment, we let fear of falling sick stop us from being fully alive.
‘Now that each one of us has had six months to consider this pandemic and to make our own judgments about it, surely it is time to relax the rules so that individuals can take more personal responsibility and make more of their own decisions about the risks that they are prepared to run?’
Mr Abbott also questioned the financial cost of each life which has been potentially saved by Australia’s tough stance against the virus.
‘Even if mandatory shutdown [in Australia] really was all that avoided the initially predicted 150,000 deaths, that still works out at about $2million per life saved,’ he said.
‘And if the average age of those who would have died is 80, even with roughly 10 years of expected life left, that’s still $200,000 per quality life year or substantially beyond what governments are usually prepared to pay for life saving drugs.’
Tony Abbott questioned whether Australia’s tough restrictions were proportionate to the health risks associated with the disease and hoped international borders would reopen by Christmas
New modelling suggests cases in coronavirus-stricken Victoria could fall to as little as just 10 a day by next weekend. Pictured: An airport worker cleaning trolleys for passengers at the terminal amid COVID-19 pandemic
Mr Abbott praised the Swedish government, saying most countries approached the crisis ‘like trauma doctors instead of thinking like health economists’.
He went on to say he hoped Prime Minister Scott Morrison would consider opening international borders by Christmas.
Mr Morrison told the House of Representatives on Monday he is focused on rebuilding the economy following Melbourne’s deadly second wave, and believes that starts with reopening the domestic market.
‘The restrictions in the arrangements we have today are not things we want to see by Christmas,’ he said.
In his Policy Exchange address Mr Abbott also pointed to his tenure as federal health minister, where he said he was required to have a pandemic plan.
Tony Abbott hopes Prime Minister Scott Morrison will consider opening international borders by Christmas, which is when the PM is actually hoping to open domestic borders. Pictured: A passenger arriving at Sydney off a flight from Hong Kong
A man wearing a face mask is seen riding a bike on August 31 in coronavirus stricken Victoria
While that plan included partial economic shutdowns, he insisted he never considered – or would have considered – stay-at-home orders like those imposed in Victoria.
Mr Abbott warned against keeping measures in place indefinitely or creating a ‘stop-start economy… a stop-start life’.
‘It’s amongst us, we can’t get rid of it … realistically the only way to entirely eliminate the virus is to lock yourself off from the world indefinitely and I just don’t think that is realistic.’
The former PM said he was concerned governments were relying too heavily on health experts with no real accountability and blamed authority figures for panicking.
The state of affairs in Victoria at the moment could lead to a cycle of ‘crisis mode’, in with the government maintains strict restrictions longer than necessary, particularly ‘if the crisis adds to their authority or boosts their standing’.
He added that it could not be discerned whether Melbourne’s strict stage four lockdown and night curfew had actually been successful in stemming the spread of the virus.
Infections topped 723 on July 30, but have been trending downwards in the weeks since.
Travellers are temperature tested by health officials after arriving on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney on July 7
Mr Abbott was granted an exemption to travel to London during the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured on August 26
VICTORIA’S COVID CRISIS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
VICTORIA’S LATEST COVID-19 NUMBERS:
* 70 new cases, the lowest since July 3
* Five more deaths, taking the state’s toll to 570 and the national figure to 677
* Two of the deaths occurred prior to the past 24 hours
* The latest deaths include two women in their 70s, two women in their 80s and one in her 90s
* 2519 active cases in Victoria, including 139 in regional areas
* 4327 “mystery” cases, a decrease of 11 from Monday
* 421 people in hospital, with 20 in intensive care and of those 7 are on ventilators
* 352 active cases among healthcare workers
* 1197 active cases in aged care
* 42 active cases in disability care, including 27 staff and 15 residents
* Total of 2,235,040 tests conducted, an increase of 10,153 in the past 24 hours
KEY AGED CARE OUTBREAKS:
* 214 cases linked to Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping
* 203 St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner
* 193 BaptCare Wyndham Lodge Community in Werribee
* 161 Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer
* 139 Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth
* 124 Twin Parks Aged Care in Reservoir
* 123 Cumberland Manor Aged Care Facility in Sunshine North
* 115 Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North
* 115 Japara Goonawarra Aged Care Facility in Sunbury
* 114 Estia Aged Care Facility in Heidelberg
OTHER KEY OUTBREAKS:
* 71 Peninsula Health Frankston
* 44 Vawdrey Australia Truck Manufacturer
RECENT VICTORIA POLICE FINES:
* 122 fines, including 11 for failing to wear a face covering and 45 for curfew breaches
* 19 fines from 19,154 vehicles at checkpoints
* 5169 spot checks on homes, businesses and public places across the state (total of 362,368 since March 21)
* Stage four in metropolitan Melbourne including an 8pm-5am curfew, 5km travel limit from home, one-hour outdoor exercise limit and widespread workforce shutdowns including child care. In place until September 13.
* Stage three for regional Victoria until September 13.
On Tuesday, Victoria recorded just 70 new coronavirus cases , the lowest increase in two months, with another five deaths.
The five deaths on Tuesday include two women in their 70s, two women in their 80s and one in her 90s.
In spite of the lockdown seemingly working to bring down case numbers, Mr Abbott said it was the opinions of alarmists which led to the restrictive lockdown, and cited New South Wales’s handling of the crisis as an alternative.
New South Wales has had superior track-and-trace methods and quarantine procedures and has managed to contain several outbreaks that had the potential to be devastating.
Mr Abbott said the focus of the response to the pandemic had seemingly shifted from ‘flattening the curve’ to trying to eradicate the virus altogether, which he argues will never work.
‘Much of the media has indulged virus-hysteria with the occasional virus-linked death of a younger person highlighted to show that deadly threat isn’t confined to the very old or the already-very-sick or those exposed to massive viral loads,’ he said.
Two men wearing face masks as they walk around Luna Park on August 29 in Sydney
People are seen in a store in Melbourne during strict stage four lockdown on August 31
Motorists are stopped at a checkpoint at Coolangatta on the Queensland- New South Wales border earlier this month
But Professor Esterman, who suggested Victorian cases could drop to below 10 by the weekend, said that estimate was a direct reflection of the success of the stage four restrictions.
‘I obviously hope to see the downward trend hit 60 on Wednesday and 50 the next day and so on. There is potential for it to become a snake like in NSW where it goes up and down from 10 to 20 cases a day so it is complex,’ he told Yahoo News.
Mr Abbott said the restrictive Victorian lockdown is the most severe in the world outside of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the virus.
And Mr Andrews has indicated he might still extend that lockdown and state of emergency past the initial September 15 end date.
Meanwhile Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned her borders will likely stay closed for at least another month amid concerns about community transmission interstate.
‘We said we would review it at the end of the each month and there has been no advice from the chief health officer to change what we are doing,’ she said on Tuesday.
The decision comes as the state recorded two new cases linked to a local cluster.
The premier said Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young wanted to see southern states, and New South Wales in particular, go through two 14-day COVID-19 incubation cycles without any new cases of community transmission.
‘I’ll tell you what we’re looking for – to keep Queenslanders safe, that’s what we’re looking for,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
Mr Andrews has indicated he might still extend that lockdown and state of emergency past the initial September 15 end date. Pictured: People walk past a shop window in Melbourne amid strict lockdown
Passengers arrive at Sydney International Airport off a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong and immediately enter a 14 day quarantine period in a city hotel