A group of 500 Melbourne doctors have urged Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews to immediately lift lockdown in the southeastern state of Australia, warning that more people will be killed than saved if the harsh restrictions are not rolled back.

In an open letter, they warned that the mounting number of restrictions has only placed more pressure on residents, playing havoc with their mental wellbeing.

“The response to the virus will cause more deaths and result in far more negative health effects than the virus itself,” the letter reads.

On Sunday, Andrews announced the State of Emergency in Melbourne would be extended by another four weeks, pushing back plans to fully lift Stage Four restrictions on October 19 and putting in place two new rules with effect from midnight on Sunday.

People refusing a Covid-19 test will now have to spend 21 days instead of 11 days in isolation and regional Victorian businesses will not be allowed to seat Melbourne residents.

The letter stated that it has driven up figures of self-harm and worsened mental health issues among struggling residents. Chronically ill people are less likely to leave their homes for crucial tests at hospitals, it said.

The doctors demanded that the government lift the five-kilometre travel ban on residents, reopen sports clubs and allow families to visit each other in their homes and aged care centres.

Anesthetist Dr Eamonn Mathieson said there would be strong repercussions if lockdowns remained in place.

“There has been massive collateral damage in the mental health space due to the lockdowns,” Dr Mathieson said. “The way you do public health is not to focus or have a fixation on one condition to the exclusion of all others.”

However, the Australian Medical Association has distanced itself from the letter and argued the lifting of restrictions too soon could be catastrophic. “The absolute worst thing that could possibly happen would be another lockdown and it is important while this lockdown is working – which it clearly is – that it is followed through to achieve the road map the state government has set out,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

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