James Merlino will be acting Victorian Premier ‘for some time’ after Daniel Andrews fall



James Merlino has said he expects to be Victoria’s acting Premier for “some time” as Daniel Andrews recovers from a fractured vertebra and several broken ribs.

The Premier has been moved from an intensive care unit into a ward at The Alfred hospital after falling at a home on the Mornington Peninsula on Tuesday.

The Alfred’s intensive care unit director Steve McGloughlin on Saturday said Mr Andrews was in good spirits and remained in a stable condition following a fall on Tuesday.

“There is no plan for surgery at this stage,” Dr McGloughlin said.

In a tweet, Mr Andrews said the doctors had told him “recovery and rehab is still going to be a very long journey” and thanked the team at The Alfred hospital.

The ABC understands the Premier has fractured his T7 vertebra in his mid-back and a CT scan revealed several broken ribs.

a health worker in a mask stands next to daniel andrews who is sitting on a hospital bed.
Daniel Andrews says he is settling into his hospital ward after being moved out of ICU.(Twitter: @DanielAndrewsMP)

“It’s great to see him out of intensive care and into a ward. That’s a great step forward and a great relief to Dan, to Cath and the kids,” Mr Merlino said.

Mr Merlino, who is retaining his education and mental health portfolios, said discussions were underway with National Cabinet to see whether he could attend the April meeting in Mr Andrews’s place.

“The arrangements under National Cabinet is that Premiers can’t have proxies at National Cabinet, and there’s common sense to that, that is an appropriate mechanism,” he said.

“But this is a circumstance where I’ll be acting Premier for some time, so we’re having those discussions and resolving those issues with the Commonwealth.”

Mr Merlino said he expected the issue of proxies would be resolved ahead of the next meeting, and regular engagement would continue with health officials across the country.

Speaking to reporters at an announcement about level crossing removals, he said the government would “get on with the job of governing” while the Premier focused on his recovery.

No decision on international flights imminent

Mr Merlino said there was still not a timeline for when the state would again accept international flights.

International arrivals were “paused” on February 12 during a snap five-day lockdown and they have not resumed since. The state recorded its 16th straight day without a locally acquired case of COVID-19 today.

“No decisions have been made, that is a matter for public health, discussion at National Cabinet,” Mr Merlino said.

“We want international flights, we want international students back, we want people to be able to travel back to this country, but that will happen when it is safe to do so, and that is a decision of the public health team and the National Cabinet.”

Following the most recent National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had been “regularly” asking Victoria to resume flights.

New South Wales currently takes about 3,000 international travellers per week.

Mr Merlino denied there was a delay in taking returned travellers, saying his government had not yet had the health advice to say it was appropriate for flights to resume.

“There’s a number of reviews taking place, including around ventilation in our hotels, including reviews around the virulent nature of the other strains,” he said.

He said the government was also doing the “intensive work” of looking at building an alternate site.

Meanwhile, the health department is contacting anyone who has arrived in the state from Brisbane since March 10 following a doctor contracting COVID-19.

Anyone who visited the high-risk exposure sites identified by the Queensland government on March 11 must be tested and quarantine for 14 days.

  • The Morning After Café at West End between 2:00pm and 3:15pm
  • The Corporate Box Gym at Greenslopes between 5:45pm and 7:00pm
  • The Stones Corner Hotel at Stones Corner between 7:00pm and 7:45pm

Brisbane remains “green” in Victoria’s traffic light permit system and although Mr Merlino warned settings could change quickly, he said he was satisfied with the current border settings.

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