Police association secretary Wayne Gatt said the state government’s use of road blocks to restrict travel between the city and regional Victoria last year was flawed and plagued by loopholes.
The union’s warning comes as authorities consider how to navigate the unfolding health crisis as Victoria’s Covid-19 outbreak swelled to 51 on Monday after 11 new cases were recorded.
Victoria’s police association says the state government’s ‘ring of steel’, a series of roadblocks set up around Melbourne last year (pictured) were ineffective and should not be repeated
Police association secretary Wayne Gatt (pictured) has warned the state government against using the checkpoint system again
‘Last year’s model was not effective, nor was it efficient,’ Mr Gatt told The Age.
‘Our advice in debriefing that operation to both Victoria Police and the state government has been clear: if in the future government policy required some form of separation to be policed, there are much better ways of doing it that are far less labour intensive and far more effective.’
Mr Watt has suggested mobile police checks be used as an alternative approach, with officers monitoring both freeways and smaller roads.
He said the threat of being caught would deter residents from breaching restrictions, and the method would be more resource efficient.
Last year, freeways around Melbourne’s perimeters were guarded by hundreds of police officers to ensure drivers had an essential reason to travel.
The series of road border checkpoints stood for four months as regional Victoria recovered from the second wave quicker than Melbourne. .
The ‘ring of steel’ was a series of road border checkpoints manned by hundreds of police officers last year as regional Victoria recovered from the second wave quicker than Melbourne
Police officers direct traffic at a roadblock site in Broadmeadows, Melbourne, in July last year
The critique of the system comes as the Victorian government announced the measure could be reintroduced if the state’s lockdown drags out beyond seven days.
Acting Premier James Merlino warned the outbreak could get worse before it gets better, as three of 11 new cases reported on Monday were linked to a Melbourne aged care home.
Mr Merlino added it was too early to tell if the statewide lockdown would be extended beyond 11.59pm on Thursday, saying the next few days would be critical.
None of Victoria’s 60 active cases reside in the regions, although several of the state’s more than 320 exposure sites are outside the city.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton could not rule out a return of the ‘ring of steel’.
‘It will be determined as we go through a review of the situation day by day. It is not out of the question,’ he said.
A 99-year-old female resident at Arcare Maidstone was among three new cases on Monday linked to the facility in the city’s northwest.
A woman exercises alongside Melbourne’s Yarra River on Monday as residents remain in lockdown
Dozens of people line up outside a COVID vaccination centre in West Melbourne on Monday
Victoria’s Covid-19 outbreak swelled to 51 cases on Monday after 11 new infections were identified. Pictured: Health workers conduct COVID-19 testing at the Montague Street centre in South Melbourne on Friday
She was within the area where a COVID-positive female healthcare employee worked, and has now been moved to hospital with mild symptoms.
The other two cases included the staffer’s son and an unvaccinated colleague, who also worked at BlueCross Western Gardens in Sunshine from Wednesday to Friday.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley resisted the temptation to criticise the federal government for repealing a ban on private aged care staff working across multiple sites last November.
But the Commonwealth is facing heavy scrutiny for vaccination rates among Arcare Maidstone residents and staff, as well as other private-run facilities.
National cabinet will on Friday consider a proposal to make vaccination mandatory for all aged and disability care workers.
Federal MP Bill Shorten, whose electorate of Maribyrnong takes in the Maidstone facility, said workers in both the public and private systems should have been vaccinated by now.
‘It is disgraceful that residents and aged-care workers and the same with people with severe disabilities and disability workers have not yet been vaccinated,’ Mr Shorten told Nine Network on Tuesday.
Staff are seen leaving Arcare Aged Care facility in Maidstone, which has been locked down after a resident tested positive to Covid-19
Royal Freemasons (pictured) have returned to more relaxed conditions after staff and residents returned negative test results
‘The anxiety on people is shocking.’
Contact tracers are yet to determine how the first worker caught the virus as authorities await a genomic sequencing report, expected to be finalised as early as Tuesday.
Arcare Maidstone and Blue Cross Western Gardens residents remain locked down, while Royal Freemasons’ Coppin and Footscray sites returned to more relaxed settings after staff and residents returned negative test results.
It follows Coburg’s Mercy College and Methodist Ladies College in Kew shutting on Monday due to their own COVID-19 scares, further complicating the resumption of remote learning for students.