Deputy Premier of Victoria James Merlino has announced that Victoria will go into a snap seven-day lockdown from tonight at 11.59pm, as the state recorded 12 new cases overnight, bringing the cluster to 26. If everything goes to plan, the lockdown will be lifted on Thursday, June 3, at 11.59pm.
“We said this time yesterday, the next 24 hours were going to be particularly critical in terms of what our next steps will be,” he told media on Thursday morning.
“In the last day, we have seen 12 linked new cases, bringing the total number of cases linked to the hotel quarantine breach in South Australia to 26. Sadly, we have one of those people in an ICU, on a ventilator, in not a very good way. In the last day, we’ve seen more evidence we’re dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded.”
Merlino said Victorians will only be able to leave home for five reasons: shopping for necessary goods and services, authorised work or permitted education, exercise (a two-hour limit with one other person), care giving, and to get vaccinated. No visitors are allowed at homes other than an intimate partner, and public gatherings are also off the cards. Restaurants, pubs and cafes can only stay open for takeaway. And masks must be worn everywhere. For shopping and exercise, he says you must stay within five kilometres of your home.
The announcement comes just a few hours after Professor of microbiology, Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University Medical School, said Australia is well equipped to deal with Melbourne’s latest cluster and a lockdown isn’t necessary. “I think we have to be careful about closing an entire city or place down. So far our track record is [that] we can handle this without doing that,” Collignon told Sunrise hosts David Koch and Natalie Barr on Thursday morning.
“The numbers are important but the real number that is more important than anything else is the number of unlinked cases. We can’t go back to the normal of two years ago until we get a lot of people vaccinated.”
The snap lockdown comes as several states and territories introduced hard border closures overnight. South Australia yesterday tightened its restrictions for anyone who has visited Greater Melbourne in the past two weeks. South Australian residents in Greater Melbourne will be allowed to return, but must undergo 14 days of quarantine. As of this morning, Western Australia has fully closed its border to Victoria.
Queenslanders on the other hand have been urged to reconsider travel plans to Victoria, as Queensland Health declared the City of Whittlesea (in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne) a Covid-19 hotspot, meaning anyone who’s been there in the past two weeks will have to go into hotel quarantine.
Tasmania has also declared the City of Whittlesea a Covid-19 high-risk area, while the Northern Territory has restricted travel from the exposure sites.
New South Wales and the ACT have not enforced any hard boarder closures but are keeping a close eye on the evolving situation.