Daniel Andrews insists his government’s response to the Covid pandemic was a ‘TRIUMPH’

Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews has insisted his government’s response to the Covid pandemic was a ‘triumph’, despite millions in Melbourne being forced to endure the world’s longest lockdown.

Speaking to the left-wing podcast Social Democrat last week, Andrews said his political opponents and Victorian federal MPs should have congratulated him on successfully keeping the virus under control.

Melbourne has struggled with Covid more than any other Australian state or territory, spending a total of more than 260 days under stifling restrictions.

Divisions in the city have steadily grown, with weekly protests – some attended by tens of thousands – over lockdown rules, vaccine mandates and most recently the Andrews’ Pandemic Management Bill.

“It’s a triumph in terms of what the government can do in partnership with the community,” Mr Andrews told podcast host Stephen Donnelly, a former Labor campaign official.

Two police officers in caps and hi-vis walk behind a crowd of protesters in Melbourne on Saturday (pictured)

Mr Andrews (pictured) said federal MPs said his government should pull out of people's lives, 'Tea Party nonsense' was

Mr Andrews (pictured) said federal MPs said his government should pull out of people’s lives, ‘Tea Party nonsense’ was

Andrews also mentioned his daily press conferences, saying he was “not sure what people would think of him.”

“The audience was just absolutely phenomenal,” he said.

“They gave me some crowd numbers at one point, which, you know, is really helpful, to know you know you’re talking to a million people, live,” he said.

He said those protesting had “understandable” anger but targeted federal lawmakers for attending the rallies and provoking crowds.

‘On the other side of politics, we’ve seen a number of people who were very critical of us share a stage with these people. What do they want? Do they really want someone to get hurt?’

Mr Andrews also admitted mistakes were made by the Victorian government during the peak of the Covid outbreak.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we view our pandemic response as perfect across the board — of course we weren’t. There are things you would do if you could go back and change them,” he said.

The confession did not lead to a follow-up question from Mr Donnelly – who was Assistant Secretary of the Labor Party in the last two elections.

It is estimated that up to 10,000 people attended Saturday's protests that marched past Parliament House (pictured)

It is estimated that up to 10,000 people attended Saturday’s protests that marched past Parliament House (pictured)

The Andrews administration has been widely criticized on a number of issues during the Covid crises.

The government’s leaky hotel quarantine plan was partly responsible for Victoria’s ‘second wave’ with then health minister Jenny Mikakos, who oversaw the system and later resigned after an investigation.

The state also didn’t move to a single, consistent QR check-in system until well into 2021.

And the government and police response to protests — involving rows of officers in riot gear using pepper spray and rubber bullets — was labeled “heavy-handed” by Australia’s former deputy chief physician.

Figures show Victoria has had more Covid cases than other states and territories with 1,896 cases per 100,000 people compared to NSW, the second highest, with 1,015 cases per 100,000 people.

Victorian government has introduced widespread vaccine mandates - just like other states

Victorian government has introduced widespread vaccine mandates – just like other states

On Saturday, up to 10,000 people protested in Melbourne’s CBD, in the first mass demonstration since the Victorian government passed pandemic laws.

The crowd marched through Treasury Gardens shouting “pluck Dan Andrews” and “freedom” as protesters carried Eureka and national flags, as well as placards of Donald Trump.

Craig Kelly addressed the crowd, saying he was unable to rent a rental car after landing at Melbourne airport because he refused to show his COVID-19 vaccine certificate.

“I am no longer in a great city, I am here in a fascist medical condition,” shouted the NSW-based MP.

The anti-mandatory crowd moved to the front of Flinders Street Station, bringing traffic to a halt at the major intersection.

After more than an hour, some protesters made their way to the ABC Southbank studios as police lined up in front of the building and asked to speak to the chairman of the public broadcaster, Ita Buttrose, who lives in Sydney.

They then settled outside Government House, the official residence of the state governor who will sign the pandemic law.

At the height of the demonstration, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people were present at the Victoria Police Department.

“There was a significant police presence throughout the city and no arrests were made as of 5:00 p.m.,” a spokesman said.

A counter-demonstration against far-right elements of the so-called ‘freedom protests’ was also held in nearby Carlton.

The controversial new legislation from the Andrews administration, passed by parliament on Thursday, makes the prime minister and health minister responsible for declaring pandemics and creating health regulations.

It will replace the existing state of emergency on December 16 and make Victoria the first state in Australia to have pandemic-specific laws.

Victoria has had few Covid cases compared to foreign cities, but there is visible division in the city

Victoria has had few Covid cases compared to foreign cities, but there is visible division in the city

Health Minister Martin Foley suggested protesters complain about aspects of the pandemic laws that had already been changed.

“Protests must be peaceful and based on current information and facts,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“What we have now is a series of legal regulations that allow for a balance between the public health response that keeps us safe and open.”

There are currently 39 COVID-19 cases linked to massive protests in Melbourne last month, with three people hospitalized and one in intensive care.

Fourteen of the largely unvaccinated cases attended the meetings while contagious.

Victoria recorded a further 1,365 infections, all but two of them locally acquired, and a further nine virus-related deaths during the latest reporting period.

Also on Saturday, Brad Battin, Victoria’s shadow minister, called on the state government to potentially lift restrictions on unvaccinated people from December 15, in accordance with NSW.

“I would encourage (Prime Minister) Daniel Andrews to seriously consider that,” he said.

Mr Andrews has previously indicated that restrictions on unvaccinated people in Victoria could change depending on the progress of booster shots and rollout of shots for children between the ages of five and 11.