Adjournment Debate – Restriction grey areas

This adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, and I am asking for him to release the data that is driving decisions about coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria. Once again we are back in the grey when it comes to restrictions. We cannot have people in our homes, but we can catch up in the park or at a cafe. You can have 50 people at church services or a funeral but only 10 at a wedding. Footy and netball training can restart, but games are not allowed. Meanwhile, AFL games continue without issue.

Once again the rule that has drawn the ire of the people in my electorate is around hair and beauty, where once again procedures and treatments that cannot be done without a mask are banned. Why? What is the data that has driven this decision? Last time this was the case I stood in this place and questioned: why was this the case? People who work in this industry are trained in infection control. It is a major part of their work. They know how to sterilise.

They know about stopping cross-contamination. The beauty therapist can wear a mask at all times. That is fine. There is no issue with that. In most cases the client is in a single room with a therapist, not—as one of my constituents pointed out—in a large room with a large number of people who are not wearing masks because they are eating or drinking.

I have been contacted by providers of these services from right across my electorate who are asking for the data, not just the health advice excuse.

They want to see the data that says it is too dangerous for someone not to wear a mask. I have also been contacted by gyms who again want to see the data on why they are still forced to close.

Fitness Australia is also calling for the government to release the data to show why gyms are closed, given there have been zero cases of transmission of infection in regional Victoria.

The government’s claims that this strain of the virus is acting differently and is being passed by fleeting contact has been discredited by several infectious disease experts. Infectious diseases physician and professor at the Australian National University medical school Peter Collignon, who is also a member of the infection control expert group, told Neil Mitchell last week he has not ‘seen any evidence that this is really behaving differently to other strains that we’ve had before’. He went on to say, ‘The language being used with, I think a relative lack of evidence, is inducing a level of fear that is not warranted’.

Minister, you are playing with the livelihoods of people. Many of these businesses will fall inside the 87 per cent that will be ineligible for your support package. You owe it to the community to show the data that is driving these decisions. We are sick of hearing the words ‘based on health advice’ without the evidence to back it up. Release the data to show us why these decisions are being made.

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