This week should have heralded sweeter days for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
New COVID-19 cases continued to inch down and there was finally a flicker of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel.
But instead it has been a dirty week for the Premier, with his political problems getting harder, and louder.
Millions of Victorians tuned in last Sunday looking for even the faintest glimmer of hope that the COVID nightmare was easing.
Many were left disappointed at the long winding path out of restrictions.
The conservative roadmap is designed to avoid a devastating third wave at all costs.
But businesses have been apoplectic, arguing their ideas have fallen on deaf ears.
The economic impact of the virus will last years and present a longer-term political challenge.
Shuttered businesses and soaring unemployment are a nightmare for those living it and governments dealing with it.
Labor MPs privately asked where was the hope in the roadmap for their constituents?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his frustration with the plan, labelling it a “worst-case scenario”.
Attacks on the Premier from Canberra continued for much of the week.
“I am not interested in, at all, at all in the politics of this,” Andrews said in response. “I am just not. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. Politics is of no use in the fight against this virus.”
The targets set for easing restrictions — including a fortnightly average of no more than five new cases and no more than five cases from unknown community transmission, and then no new cases for two weeks — are tough benchmarks.
Andrews is the embodiment of the Government. Among other issues he has had to hose down this week are that Victoria is pursuing an elimination strategy, and that the targets are deliberately low due to inadequate contact tracing capabilities.
Epidemiologists and other scientists have criticised the roadmap too, labelling it unworkable.
Premier Andrews, as he so often does, has held his nerve.
Internally the Government is still holding onto the idea, backed up by polling, that while most Victorians dislike the restrictions, they are reluctantly understanding.
Labor figures say polling shows people still have faith that the leader is doing all he can to see Victoria through the pandemic.
A Roy Morgan poll this week showed Andrews is still enjoying 70 per cent approval for his response to COVID-19.
As noted several months ago, the handling of hotel quarantine is the most damaging scandal of the Premier’s reign.
The prolonged lockdown will only compound the damage.
MPs from both sides of politics have reported increased anger from segments of the community in the wake of the roadmap.
Some Opposition MPs share this view.
A fiery speech from former Liberal leader Matthew Guy last week in Parliament has been widely shared on social media — it’s had nearly a million views on Facebook, yet it has not been shared on official Liberal pages.
“Take some responsibility for what is happening in this state,” he said
Andrews has also fuelled frustration due to his obfuscation over a myriad of issues, including contact tracing and who came up with the nightly curfew.
As the Premier points out, there are few reasons to be outside after 8:00pm at night, but he was unable to say who exactly dreamt up the policy or what advice it was based on.
Both Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton have denied it was their call.
Fighting the good fight?
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has been in campaign mode this week.
The gloss has well and truly come off the Government and it won’t take a master tactician to work out what the campaign focus will be in 2022.
The hotel quarantine inquiry is providing daily fodder.
But there are jungle drums beating for O’Brien’s leadership, which have only grown louder in recent days.
Guy is being urged to make a play and the outspoken Tim Smith (who gained notoriety for wanting bats banished from Kew) is also waiting in the wings.
Leaked party polling in the Herald Sun, which showed major swings against Labor in five seats, was a major positive for O’Brien.
For his team, it’s confirmation their strategy is working.
But others inside the Victorian Liberals have dismissed the polling as “fake news”, questioning the polling’s accuracy and the fact it was taken at a time of heightened community frustration.
Try as hard as O’Brien might, there are Liberals worried that the party’s message is not cutting through at this critical time.
There are also business leaders impressing on the party to make a change.
During the week, Shadow Minister Brad Battin published an alternative roadmap.
At Friday’s virtual party room meeting, O’Brien was asked where the Opposition’s formal plan was. He was asked again by the press.
“There’s a lot of people with different ideas, what we are saying is there should be easing of restrictions, absolutely,” O’Brien said.
This week has been a depressing jolt for many, and it would be unsurprising if there was a swing against the Government this week.
Whether this changes the political landscape in the long term is hard to know, with the economic effects to be long lasting.
And, like so much of this year, everything depends on defeating the virus.
The Premier is aiming for a relatively normal Christmas — a time when voters hope that 2020, and the virus, might be behind them.