The Burnet Institute modelling underpinning Victoria's roadmap out of lockdown only looks at metropolitan Melbourne, casting doubt on the scientific basis of the government's regional roadmap.
When he announced the roadmap last Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews said it was "developed based on expert modelling from the Burnet Institute", but the researcher who led the modelling has told The Standard regional Victoria wasn't included in the analysis.
"The regional roadmap plan was developed independently to us," the Burnet Institute's Dr Nick Scott said.
"We provided modelling for the metropolitan one and the reason our focus was on the metropolitan one was that was where the cases were to model."
It raises questions about how the government decided on Victoria's regional roadmap and current restrictions, particularly in light of the negligible changes flagged for country areas before the end of October.
The Department of Health confirmed the Burnet Institute modelling did not consider regional Victoria.
The department said it was necessary to keep regional areas tightly restricted, arguing there was a high risk of super spreader events until 80 per cent of Victorians over 16 were fully vaccinated, but didn't provide specific data.
"A large amount of information was used by the Department of Health when developing the roadmap including how to safeguard the statewide health system and protecting against the increased possibility of seeding cases in regional areas," a spokesperson said.
Chair of epidemiology at Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett said it was "very weird" the Department of Health hadn't asked for modelling of regional areas.
"I would've thought you would factor that in because you might open up certain areas earlier," she said. She also said there was a risk of underestimating the second peak in cases in December if regional areas weren't modelled.
The Burnet Institute modelling provides a wealth of data to back up specific restrictions in the metropolitan roadmap. Dr Scott explained small changes such as allowing five more people inside hospitality venues made a big difference to potential outbreaks in the model.
The scientific basis for equally specific restrictions in the regional roadmap is less clear. Opposition Health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government needed to justify the ongoing regional restrictions.
"Regional Victorians deserve to understand what modelling and advice the Andrews Labor government is basing their decisions on. If no modelling has been done then they also deserve to understand why not?"
Professor Bennett said the government was taking an extremely cautious approach to regional areas, even though the ability to contain outbreaks in regional areas was much better than in a big city. She pointed out last year regional Victoria was allowed to exit lockdown more easily than Melbourne, whereas this time the reverse was true.
"They actually don't know how to handle Melbourne and the regions in a way that makes sense," she said. "We just need to hope we get through this next phase quickly. Slow means the damage is bigger."
On Friday Health Minister Martin Foley announced Victoria would miss its first target date under the roadmap. The state was forecast to hit 80 per cent first doses this Sunday, but is now expected to hit the milestone later next week.
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