Victoria’s construction industry has been linked to 403 Covid-19 cases prompting shut down


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has controversially shut down the state’s construction industry after it was revealed 403 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the sector.

There are now 300,000 tradies out of work for two weeks following the shut down with hundreds taking to the streets of Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday to protest outside construction union CFMEU’s office.

The state’s health minister Martin Foley said that the hundreds of cases found within the industry have been found across 186 construction sites. 

While the majority of cases have been linked to metropolitan Melbourne, 49 infections are in those living in regional Victoria. 

Mr Foley said the high numbers and the fact the industry had not responded sufficiently to health directions prompted authorities to shut the sector down.

More than 400 Covid-19 cases have been linked to Victoria’s construction industry as it shuts down for two weeks

There are now 300,000 tradies out of work for two weeks following the shut down with hundreds taking to the streets of Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday to protest outside construction union CFMEU's office

There are now 300,000 tradies out of work for two weeks following the shut down with hundreds taking to the streets of Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday to protest outside construction union CFMEU’s office

‘We’ve referred to multiple cases seeding from metropolitan Melbourne into the regions given the highly mobile and young permitted workforce that has been in the construction sector, for the past 18 months,’ Mr Foley said.

‘We’ve also reflected on poor levels of compliance with health directions and poor levels of application of Covid-safe principles and practices in multiple workplaces, big, small, and in between.’ 

Before workers can return to the tools on October 5, they must show proof of having at least one Covid vaccination – a measure which has sparked outrage among many tradies.

Countless protesters who were seen donning high-vis vests and jackets on Tuesday have been told to back down by police. 

 ‘Leave now or force may be used. No further warnings will be given,’ an officer inside a line of riot police and officers on horseback told the crowd.

The group of protesters at the intersection of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets in Melbourne’s CBD on Tuesday responded with chants of ‘every day’.

They are opposing the government mandate requiring all construction workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The group were heard chanting ‘f*** the jab’, ‘f*** off (Premier) Dan Andrews’ and other expletives, but are being blocked from accessing the CFMEU headquarters by a line of Victoria Police officers. 

On Monday, riot police were called in to disperse a group of about 500 protesters, who threw bottles at Victorian CFMEU construction secretary John Setka and smashed the office’s door down.

Mr Setka on Tuesday said the protesters were not all CFMEU members and blamed ‘neo-Nazi’s and right-wing extremists’ for hijacking the event.

Before workers can return to the tools on October 5, they must show proof of having at least one Covid vaccination - a measure which has sparked outrage among many

Before workers can return to the tools on October 5, they must show proof of having at least one Covid vaccination – a measure which has sparked outrage among many

Protests turned ugly on Monday with tradies hurling bottles at CFMEU construction secretary John Setka and smashing the office's door down

Protests turned ugly on Monday with tradies hurling bottles at CFMEU construction secretary John Setka and smashing the office’s door down

‘There was a small minority of construction workers, some of them when it all got violent just walked away from it. It was hijacked by the professional protesters,’ the Victorian construction branch secretary John Setka told ABC Radio National on Tuesday morning.

He said the CFMEU was ‘pro-vax’ but had always supported freedom of choice regarding vaccination.  

Former union leader and federal member for Maribyrnong Bill Shorten said he believed a group of professional trouble makers were to blame for Monday’s ‘shocking violence’.

‘I never thought I would see a scene where you have people who call themselves Nazis using encrypted message systems to bring in a rent-a-crowd,’ he told Nine Network on Tuesday.

‘Some of those people … I’m reliably informed were fake tradies.

‘They’ve been down to the Reject Shop and got themselves a $2 hi-viz hoodie.’

On Monday night, the state government announced the industry would be shut down from Tuesday for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.

Protesters are seen at Melbourne's CFMEU headquarters on Monday

Protesters are seen at Melbourne’s CFMEU headquarters on Monday

All worksites will need to demonstrate compliance with health directions prior to reopening.

This includes a requirement for workers to show evidence of having had at least one dose of a vaccine before they return to work on October 5.

Mr Shorten defended the CFMEU saying the construction union was being responsible and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

‘There is a network of hard-right man-baby Nazis, just people who just want to cause trouble – these man-babies, they want to complain about vaccinations,’ he said.

‘They deserve to get the full force of everything that’s coming their way.’ 

More to come. 

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