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As communities and businesses continue to tread water with no active cases, let alone positive PCR tests, do our state leaders have target fixation on COVID-19?

Economic downturn, mental health, child welfare and, according to Dr Anne Webster, a rise in disobedience are all the result of lockdowns and restrictions. 

Dr Webster, along with National Party colleagues, has made a concerted effort this week to call out the current crisis and the alarming fact that parliament is still suspended. This leaves the questioning of the current management decisions made by the Andrews Government under emergency powers to go unchecked and unchallenged.  

In a letter Dr Webster wrote to Mr Andrews, she stated: 

“Restrictions in regional Victoria are decimating businesses, livelihoods, and the wellbeing of communities in my electorate of Mallee. There is a growing trend of people at the end of their capacity to cope. On Monday, a business owner called me in tears about the desperate situation facing her small business, unable to pay her bills, and her mental health in decline. This is a story shared by thousands of business owners across the region.

“There are over 15,000 businesses in Mallee, of which over 50 percent have a turnover of less than $200,000. Many of these small businesses are struggling or have failed due to ongoing lockdowns. Over half the shops in Mildura’s central business district are now ‘for lease’ as business owners have given up.”

Lockdowns have pushed mental health to the brink.

Figures today from YouGov have found the mental health of 54 percent of Victorians has worsened during the pandemic, with 39 percent saying they’re also worse off financially.

 As lockdown is decimating the mental health of the youngest Victorians, the Andrews Government chose to keep key data secret.

Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Emma Kealy, said Victorians had lost hope with no plan from the Andrews Labor Government.

“We’ve always been prepared to do the right thing, but 18 months in and out of lockdown is taking an enormous toll on the mental health of every single Victorian,” Ms Kealy said.

“What’s worse is there’s still no plan out of lockdown and, in recent weeks, Daniel Andrews has been walking back promises that we’ll have a more certain future as vaccination rates reach 80 percent.

“The isolation is weighing heavy on the shoulders of young Victorians, but the Andrews Labor Government has no plan to give us hope there’s a road out of lockdown.”

Victoria’s Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Neil Coventry, recently raised serious concerns the mental health of Victoria’s most vulnerable children and teenagers will never recover.

Earlier this year, it was revealed eight teenage girls had taken their lives in the first seven months of 2021. It’s seven more than the same time last year.

“We can’t afford to ignore the impact this shadow mental health pandemic is having on children and teenagers,” Ms Kealy said.

“They need to be back in school. They need to be with their friends, they need to be back playing sport, doing creative activities, doing those things that give them emotional and mental health support. 

“This lockdown is destroying lives and livelihoods.” 

The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says the true damage of the pandemic will haunt Victoria for generations – and no vaccine exists to solve this problem.

He said the Nationals have been supporting calls from health experts for greater freedoms in areas where no cases or exposure sites exist. Said communities deserve more information than what they are being given.

“The premier’s daily lectures, where he hints things may improve but he can’t let us in on his secret, are pathetic. It is a tool he uses to draw as much despair as possible out of the wider community and then when he tosses us a small bone, everyone is so grateful,” Mr Walsh explained.

“Of late, he has tried to divert attention from his own failures onto NSW and its problems – yet no-one in NSW has overseen the death of 820 people as Daniel Andrews did,” he said.

“The worst thing is people need a plan and we don’t have one. NSW has announced a staged return to school from October 25, with all students returning by November 8.

“We’ve got nothing but Daniel Andrews on his $8,489 a week – every week – standing there and telling us he can feel our pain. What a joke.

“There is also an increasing number of business people in great stress with the prospect of having to shut the doors.”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 2 September 2021

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 2 September 2021.

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