Gladys Berejiklian’s controversial decision to suspend daily Covid-19 updates has triggered a stinging response from Victoria.
The Andrews government has provided a scathing response to Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to suspend daily Covid-19 updates, declaring the briefings are crucial amid a “public health crisis”.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley emphatically rejected his government following NSW counterparts who said they will front the media “when I need to”, which he ridiculed as an out-of-touch move that fails to communicate key information to the state and denigrates the seriousness of the pandemic.
He told reporters on Saturday “we need to hear what this means in real life”.
“It’s not fun having to do these things (but) this is a public health crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in a century.
“The fate of our public health system is on the cusp here.
“And, yeah, not every person lobs in and watches us, but it’s an important part in getting the message out that it’s not just numbers, it’s people, it’s lives, it’s health systems and we have take every opportunity to get the message out that it is in a our collective ability to reshape that.”
The Berejiklian infuriated many on Friday when she announced press conferences would be reserved for major updates rather than daily Covid-19 case numbers.
“I will turn up when I need to,” Ms Berejiklian said, as the state’s infections soar towards 2000 a day.
Instead, the update will be replaced by videos of Department of Health officials running through the daily figures, without the opportunity for reporters to hurl questions at authorities and senior politicians.
On Saturday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the daily press conferences forced critical health staff to spend hours preparing for questions ahead of the daily update, taking up too much valuable time.
“You think it is just for one hour or whatever it is that you walk in here but in fact there is the preparation for the morning,” he said on Saturday.
The Health Minister said at least 70 hours a week is devoted to press conference preparation, which “is taken out from the time we need to do the things you want us to do”.
“When I would like them to be facing how do we move forward? How can we get normality back in our lives?”
The senior state cabinet member, who fronted Saturday’s press conference without the premier or deputy premier, revealed a record daily increase in cases of 1599 and eight deaths.
But he insisted there would be a press conference if a major announcement was needed to be conveyed to the population.
“Have no fear, we will be here,” Mr Hazzard said.
On Friday, the announcement sparked a furious exchange with Channel 7’s Chris Reason who pressed Ms Berejiklian over the decision.
“We’re going to see hospitals come under the greatest stress they have ever seen and you and your ministers are about to cancel this press conference. Are you going into hiding?’’ he asked.
“Can I just say clearly and loudly to the people of NSW, we will be here whenever we need to communicate something very important to the community,’’ she said.
Journalists then interjected, “We are getting a video message?”
“What we need to do is all of us have to start accepting that we need to live with Covid because Covid would be around for three or four years and it is not tactical to do everything,’’ she said.
Ms Berejiklian was then asked if she should at least keep holding press conferences until the peak had passed.
But the NSW Premier then responded that she didn’t know when that was.
“We will never know exactly when that is,’’ she said.