Victorian ski fields face another bleak winter thanks to a pig-headed Labor government that refuses to take its foot off the throat of its tired citizens.
On Wednesday, Melburnians were told they would require proof that they had received a negative polymerase chain reaction Covid test within the past 72 hours before they would be allowed onto a Victorian ski field.
The decree by Premier Daniel Andrews’ government will mean children as young as three will need to be tested before being allowed to glide down a snowy hill on a toboggan.
A child hits the slopes on Mount Buller last week. Crowds will be decimated by an order for people to be tested before being allowed on the mountain
Covid safe signage on Mount Buller was all set for bumper crowds this weekend
The sun sets on Mount Buller last week. Some fear it may not rise again for desperate businesses dependent on the ski season
The requirement has all but destroyed the weekend for countless Melburnians who had planned a trip to the snowfields after being released from their 25km Covid compliant cages.
But many who had ideas of visiting the mountains over the coming weeks and months are already thinking twice about enduring the rigmarole of having to get their whole family tested.
Ski field operators reported mass cancellations of bookings upon Acting Premier Daniel Merlino’s announcement this week and fear any plans to extend the requirements throughout the upcoming school holidays will ruin them.
From Friday, Melburnians will be allowed to travel across regional Victoria, masks will no longer be required outdoors, two adults and their dependants will be able to visit homes, and community sport can resume.
Victoria recorded no new local Covid cases overnight, with a strong turnout of more than 25,600 people tested on Wednesday.
Dismiss people who hit the slopes as ‘toffs’ if you will, but that would be neither true or to the point.
Just across the New South Wales border, Thredbo and Perisher are able to operate as normal despite that state recording two new cases overnight.
Thousands of ordinary Melburnians had accessed Victoria’s alpine resorts each winter up until last year when Mr Andrews’ Covid blunders shut them all down.
It was his useless quarantine hotel scheme that destroyed the ski season and ended the lives of hundreds of elderly Victorians.
With Victoria smashed by freezing weather in recent weeks, struggling alpine businesses were desperate for a bumper ski season.
People are seen waiting in line at a pop-up Covid-19 testing facility outside of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art complex in Melbourne on Wednesday
Adam and Jackie play in the snow with their children Thomas and Jackie on June 11 at Mount Buller. Come Friday, they will need to be tested before being allowed up the mountain
A lift operator shovels snow at Mt Buller Ski Resort on June 12. The resort had high hopes of a bumper season after being shut down by last year’s disastrous Covid lockdown
Sets of skis at George’s Ski Hire on Mount Buller in Victoria wait in anticipation of a ski season that has been doomed to fail
RAPID TESTS ENDED SLOVAKIAN LOCKDOWN
In October and November, Slovakia tested a large percentage of its population in several rounds of mass rapid antigen testing.
Determined not to enter another lockdown, two rounds of rapid mass testing saw the prevalence of Covid drop by more than half.
While the approach may not work everywhere, the findings supported population-wide rapid testing, when combined with other measures, as an important tool for combatting the pandemic.
Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton justified the decision by stating the snow resorts posed a ‘high-risk environment’.
‘The industry has to be protected,’ he said. ‘A single case infectious on the mountain would be a potential superspreader event.’
Few Melburnians will forget that Covid came to town last year in the Balenciaga purses of Aspen skiing snobs.
But that was more than a year ago and those within the Andrews Government have proven to be slow learners.
An alternative to slow and intrusive PCR tests continues to be ignored by not only the Andrews Government, but those advising governments across the country.
Experts claim by running rapid antigen and rapid antibody tests in parallel with PCR tests, patients understand after 15 minutes with a high degree of accuracy whether they have or have had the virus.
Such tests, which can be bought over the counter in the United States and United Kingdom, can quickly identify potential carriers.
While diagnostic companies have received approval to use the tests in Australia, health authorities refuse to grant approval outside of the workplace.
John Kelly, managing director at Atomo Diagnostics, believes rapid antigen testing can save the ski season
A woman receives a PCR test in Melbourne. Calls for more rapid tests have increased as Melbourne’s lockdown continues
Rapid antigen tests could be Melbourne’s way out of future lockdowns
John Kelly, managing director at Atomo Diagnostics, told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday that the use of rapid antigen tests would save Victoria’s ski season.
‘There is no reason why these tests could not be deployed in a ski resort as people arrive and within 15 minutes you have screened everybody and they pick up nine out of 10 active infections,’ he said.
‘If someone is positive there is a high likelihood that it will be detected through this program.’
Mr Kelly said the tests returned results on the spot without the need for a laboratory.
‘There is no reason why they couldn’t be done in Australia other than a public health policy that is resistant to rapid testing,’ he said.
Earlier this month, Daily Mail Australia was ignored by the premier’s office as to why it would not consider using rapid antigen tests in combination with its preferred use of PCR tests.
The Victorian health department and the premier’s office ignored questions again on Thursday.
The cost to the Australian taxpayer and Medicare of rapid tests would be between $15 and $20 per test rather than $180 per PCR test.
Mr Kelly said the rapid tests had been reviewed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for use in Australia.
‘So from a regulatory perspective, they can be used. There is no reason that they can’t be used,’ he said.
Wayne Flower has no plans to hit the ski slopes if he has to get his young family tested for Covid before going
Premier Daniel Andrews claims to follow the advice of health officials. Some argue he doesn’t listen to all of them
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton claims his orders are protecting Victorians.
In the UK, the rapid tests are used to screen people attending rock concerts while in Australia they have been utilised by Opera Australia to screen production workers.
‘You can’t test 10,000 people by PCR up on a ski field because you don’t have a lab nearby and you don’t get the results until the weekend is finished, so it’s completely useless,’ Mr Kelly said.
‘We’ve never said use rapid testing instead of PCR, what we’re saying is use rapid testing in areas where PCR isn’t practical and this is one obvious example.’
Yet Professor Sutton continues to bleat on about ‘protecting Victorians’.
Last week Victorians along trendy Chapel Street begged the premier and his health goons to pay them a visit to see how their protection was treating them.
Like most of regional Victoria, their businesses, families and outlook for the future has been destroyed by medical advice and decisions that cannot be challenged or explained.
This weekend, as Victoria’s ski fields cater to a hand full of die hard locals, it surely can’t be just the ‘snobs’ asking for an end to this madness.
CASE FOR RAPID ANTIGEN TESTING
Rapid tests have been extremely effective globally as a mechanism for testing and managing COVID.
By running rapid antigen and rapid antibody tests in parallel, patients understand after 15 minutes with a high degree of accuracy whether they have or have had the virus.
Australian governments continue to oppose any other form of testing and maintain sole reliance on PCR testing as the only mechanism and tool to determine whether someone has Covid.
PCR tests can take between 18 and 36 hours to return from the lab depending on the capacity and workload of the facility.
Experts claim the slow time lag for PCR results renders them unsuitable for the logistics of travel, entering large venues for sports/live music events, visiting relatives in aged care facilities and for mass ground transport.
‘Rapid antigen tests have a validated sensitivity of 97 percent, comparable to the “gold standard” PCR test in the low to mid 90 percent range,’ an expert in the diagnostics field told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.
‘Depending on the number of cycles the PCR tests are conducted over, they will detect not just active infection but remnants of COVID fragments from possible past infection, hence the large number of false positives seen with PCR testing around the world.’
The rapid antigen tests were used at Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory up until only a few weeks ago when they were dumped exclusively for PCR tests.
The facility’s medical director, Di Stephens, claimed the rapid tests did not have the sensitivity and specificity to pick up the people that had Covid and also had returned false positives.