Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has added his voice to the chorus of calls for the Peninsula to be removed from metropolitan Melbourne’s COVID-19 restrictions. “As a rural area, all the Mornington Peninsula asks is that we be recognised as a rural area,” Mr Hunt said.
In a letter to Premier Daniel Andrews, the Flinders federal Liberal MP said his office had been inundated with calls from residents for the Peninsula’s designation to be changed from metropolitan to regional. Callers also raised concerns over the impact of the restrictions on mental health and the effect on businesses, and many pointed to the consistently low number of COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula as another reason to ease restrictions.
Mr Hunt said residents were angry that the City of Greater Geelong had a significantly higher number of COVID cases than the Peninsula yet was under fewer restrictions. “Local businesses and industries are suffering, the mental health of local residents is being negatively impacted, and – most importantly – by every definition the Mornington Peninsula has met all thresholds the rest of regional Victoria has achieved, including no new infections for 14 days.”
Nepean state Labor MP Chris Brayne avoided questions on his views about the Peninsula being subject to metropolitan Melbourne restrictions. Asked about this and whether he would lobby the State Government to have the Mornington Peninsula Shire removed from those restrictions, Mr Brayne said in a statement: “We need to ensure these school holidays don’t put at risk the potential for businesses to trade this summer or for us to enjoy the summer down here without restrictions.
“We need clear air for businesses and locals this summer. Addressing the situation with COVID-19 now gives the greatest chance of achieving that clear air. That’s why I’ve placed importance on working with police in having a strong police presence these school holidays in September.”
Meanwhile, the online petition calling for metropolitan restrictions to be lifted on the Peninsula continues to gather steam, with more than 13,000 signatures at the time of posting. Many of those signing the petition noted the low COVID-19 case numbers on the Peninsula.