AUSTRALIA’S second-most populous state has declared a ‘disaster’ zone and imposed a fresh lockdown on Melbourne amid a resurgent Covid-19.
Residents of Victoria’s capital flocked to supermarkets for provisions yesterday ahead of the first night of an 8pm to 5am curfew.
The dramatic move comes as record numbers of coronavirus infections were reported, leading to a stark warning from state premier Daniel Andrews (below). ‘If we don’t make these changes, we’re not going to get through this,’ he declared.
Yesterday, Victoria recorded 671 cases — one of its highest spikes — and seven deaths.
High numbers of community transmissions and cases of unknown origins have forced the new restrictions, which will be in place for six weeks.
Melbourne — the country’s second-largest city — is already under a reimposed six-week stay-at-home order as it attempts to rein in the disease.
The state of disaster gives police additional powers to ensure people are complying with health directives. In a televised address, Mr Andrews said: ‘The current rules have avoided thousands and thousands of cases each day, as well as thousands of people in hospital and many more tragedies than we have seen. But it is not working fast enough.
‘We have no choice but to make these decisions and to push on. This is the only option we have.’
The curfew comes on top of existing restrictions for the city’s 5million population. Residents will be allowed to only shop and exercise within three miles of their homes.
Across the state, students will return to home-based learning and childcare centres will be closed.
Supermarkets will remain open and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services.
Restrictions on movement elsewhere in the state will be less severe than in Melbourne. Mr Andrews said further changes for workplaces and businesses would be announced today.
Prime minister Scott Morrison backed Victoria’s measures, saying in a post on his Facebook page that they were ‘regrettably necessary’ to stop the spread of the pandemic.
‘We are all in this together and we will get through it,’ he said.
Health minister Greg Hunt said the government supported the measures with a heavy heart. ‘We do so because they will help save and protect lives.’
Australia has fared far better than many other countries in keeping coronavirus from spreading but at a high economic cost.
Nationally, it has recorded around 18,000 coronavirus cases and just over 200 deaths. But the surge in Victoria has proved difficult to contain.
Neighbouring New South Wales — the most populous state — reported 12 infections yesterday, with authorities now ‘strongly’ recommending the use of face masks in public.