Melbourne to undergo snap COVID-19 lockdown

Melbourne to undergo snap COVID-19 lockdown

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed Victoria will begin a five-day stage four lockdown from 11.59pm today until Wednesday, in response to fears the “hyper-infectious” UK strain is spreading faster than contact tracers can keep up.

Victorians will only be allowed to leave their homes for four reasons: shopping for essentials, giving care, essential work and education and exercise with household members only. Masks must be worn everywhere.

Retailers will close with exceptions for essential businesses. The Australian Open will also be affected.

Victorians will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential supplies, care and caregiving and exercise and essential work.

Exercise and shopping will be limited to 5km from Victorians’ homes.

Excercise is allowed for two hours a day with household members, your partner, or one other person who is not from your household.

Masks will need to be worn everywhere except in your own homes and no visitors are allowed in homes.

Public gatherings are not permitted and Schools will close but will remain available over three days — Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday — for vulnerable children.

Places of worship are closed. Religious gatherings and ceremonies are not permitted. Funerals can involve no more than 10 people for both indoor or outdoor settings. Weddings are not permitted unless on compassionate grounds

The state's outbreak began at Melbourne Airport's Holiday Inn last week and has now risen to 13 cases, five of which were locally acquired on Thursday. All cases at the hotel are presumed to be the UK strain of coronavirus, which is proving to be highly contagious and more difficult to contain than the original variant.

On Friday morning, with the state's active case tally standing at 19, the Victorian Cabinet met and decided the safest course of action was to return to Stage 4 restrictions and place the state back into lockdown, for a minimum of five days.

"The UK strain is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said during a press conference on Friday. "I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective. I want to be here next Wednesday announcing that these restrictions are coming off."

The lockdown deliberations come as the Holiday Inn cluster grew to 13 cases overnight, now spreading beyond the hotel quarantine program.

Clinical epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter told Today a third lockdown could be beneficial for Victoria.

"We now have four cases of community transmission from hotel quarantine workers which is the first time we've had community transmission from hotel quarantine breach since the second wave in Victoria," Professor Baxter said.

"If there is a time to really get this under control, the time probably is now. It is a very tough decision and, you know, if there is not any further community spread it always looks like this was out of proportion, but I must say you can't prove prevention.

Victorian residents are familiar with life in lockdown. Between July and October last year, the state was placed into hard lockdown as it battled its second wave of COVID-19. The state's active cases peaked on August 7 with 6,769 but the number had dipped into double figures by October 17.