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Epidemiologist fears Victoria’s lockdowns have fuelled ‘something bigger than the current outbreak’

3aw mornings
Police check cars at border checkpoint

A Victorian epidemiologist fears lockdowns have created a deep divide between regional and metropolitan parts of the state which will be “very hard to move on from”.

Chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, has told a parliamentary inquiry the ring of steel bred feelings of “resentment, jealousy and fear” which divided the state.

She says the issue first became apparent in the second lockdown, when the ring of steel was set up, but it reemerged when regional and metropolitan areas were put under different restrictions in the most recent lockdown.

“We kept the ring of steel in place so long after the second wave was really being brought under control that it just really reinforced something else — this sort of more deep-seated fear about city people and the risk community — and it was actually easier to live without them than deal with the risk,” Professor Bennett told Tony Jones, filling in for Neil Mitchell.

Professor Bennett says most city-dwellers follow stay at home orders, but the message sent by asking regional business owners to check customers’ IDs was that Melburnians were flouting the rules.

“It also suggests they’re all sneaky and are going to all break the rules and come out into regional Victoria …  these infected and nasty people from Melbourne are coming out into the community,” she said.

“We just have to watch the language around this.

“Keep our risk managed well, but not try and reinforce compliance with rules by taking that risk to the next step and actually … fuel something which is bigger than the current outbreak or concern.

“It starts to create a deeper divide that’s very hard to move on from.”

Press PLAY below to hear more of Professor Bennett’s thoughts on the regional/city divide (+ her view on mandatory vaccination for aged care workers)

Image: Diego Fedele / Getty

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