Politician who led Australia virus lockdown finally takes day off

Melbourne (AFP) –


For 120 days straight, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews has faced the cameras to tell anxious residents how his government was battling Australia's worst coronavirus outbreak.

The marathon press conferences were carried live on national television and numerous social media and news websites as hundreds and then thousands of Covid-19 cases spread in Melbourne, Victoria's capital and Australia's second-biggest city.

The outbreak in late June rattled the country, which had largely contained the coronavirus and was beginning to ease travel and social distancing restrictions, raising fears a second wave could spread nationwide as it had in other parts of the globe.

Andrews' centre-left state government closed businesses, imposed a night-time curfew and ordered Melbourne's five million residents to stay at home for more than three months in one of the world's strictest lockdowns to defeat the virus.

He used the daily briefings to announce the latest figures for new cases and deaths, which passed 800, to encourage Melbournians to respect the lockdown rules and to answer questions from an increasingly wary press corps as public patience with the restrictions wore thin.

This week, with daily new infections in the state down to single digits and few deaths over the past two weeks, Andrews lifted the stay-at-home order and allowed restaurants and pubs to reopen.

And at the end of Friday's briefing, he surprised his audience by wavering from his normal closing line of "I'll see you all tomorrow."

"Any other issues?" he asked journalists.

"If not, I will not see you tomorrow, the minister for health will conduct the daily briefing and I'm sure you're all very pleased to hear that news."