Melbourne will go into its fifth coronavirus lockdown tonight — its third lockdown this year — as health authorities work to contain two separate Delta strain clusters and a rapidly expanding list of exposure sites.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the “hard lockdown” on Thursday afternoon.
“(If) we don’t drive these numbers down … they will ultimately get away from us. That is why with a heavy heart but absolute necessity and determination to beat this, this Delta strain as we did a few weeks ago, that the chief health officer and public health team have recommended me and my colleagues that we lock down from 11:59pm tonight until 11:59pm next Tuesday night,” he said.
“We’ve got to do this, otherwise it will get away with us and we, as more than any other part of our nation know, we don’t want this getting away from us and being locked down for months.
“We want to deal with this with a short, sharp lockdown, decisive action, not waiting, not dawdling, now is our time.
“This will be a hard lockdown similar to, or identical to, what we did a couple of weeks ago. “If you are authorised to work then, you will be authorised to work now. If you were closed then, you will be closed now.
“It is essentially a repeat of the successful strategy from a couple of weeks ago.”
Lockdown rules explained
The lockdown will mean Melburnians can only leave their home for five essential reasons.
“So it’s the four reasons from last year, plus going and getting your jab, going and being vaccinated as part of the Commonwealth government’s program, they are the five reasons,” Mr Andrews said.
“One person per household for the things you need when you need them – shopping and things of that nature. No need to panic buy, no need to do any of that. We’ve proven there is no need to do that.
“You can’t go outside the 5km radius. You can go and exercise, you know, we’ve got the time limits and all the usual things that have applied over time.”
The five reasons to leave home along with other restrictions include:
• Only one person can leave the house for food and supplies
• Exercise for up to two hours
• Care or caregiving
• Work or education
• To get vaccinated
• Masks must be worn both indoors and outdoors
• Five kilometre travel limit
• Single person bubble is back
• Ten people at funerals and weddings
Mr Andrews also made a point of banning non-essential shopping.
“People who are working in authorised industries can go to work, people who are not authorised cannot go to work, so just for clarity sake, like, retail is shut. It’s not open,” he said.
“There will be no browsing, it’s click and collect. That’s what it has to be. That’s what is safe. That’s what has worked before in Melbourne and it is what will work again.”
The restrictions will apply for both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, but regional Victoria may be able to come out of the lockdown earlier depending on the situation.
The new restrictions come after mask rules were tightened overnight, with face coverings again required in all indoor settings.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg earlier told reporters the federal government was “making support available to Victoria and the Prime Minister will have more to say about those details later today”.
The federal government announced expanded coronavirus support for NSW earlier this week, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing an extended lockdown a day later.
Mr Frydenberg said support for Victoria was discussed at today’s National Security Committee meeting and with Expenditure Review Committee members.
“We are obviously very conscious of the need … to provide the economic support that is required to Australian businesses and Australian households that are in need. But I will leave further comments to the Prime Minister later today,” he said.
Mr Frydenberg said the committee had a “specific discussion today” about economic support.
“Obviously Victoria’s not yet in a lockdown and so, I will leave those decisions about what happens here in Victoria on the health front to those health officials,” he said.
The Victorian capital recorded 10 new local infections yesterday, with cases linked to infected removalists from NSW, who failed to wear their masks while working, and other cases linked to a family who breached isolation rules.
Two further cases were identified this morning — patrons who were at the MCG the same time as the earlier announced positive case.
Victoria’s coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar said authorities were rapidly working to mop up the two chains of transmission.
“You will appreciate we’re dealing with a very dynamic situation here, a very rapidly moving situation here. What we’ve got is two separate incursions into Victoria over the last three or four days, two chains of transmission, at least one is moving very actively and very aggressively across the state,” Mr Weimar said.
Mr Weimar said the state’s contact tracers were moving at a rate likely the fastest in “this hemisphere”.
Contact tracers are already on their seventh ring of tracking where coronavirus might’ve spread across the state.
“The first ring was the removalists that were here at the end of last week, we identified them late on Sunday night into Monday morning,” Mr Weimar explained.
“The second ring was the families, the people they moved into the state and the places where they picked up their furniture.
“The third ring was the neighbours, the residents in the apartment building, at Ariele.
“The fourth ring is friends of those residents and ask neighbours, at least one of whom has turned positive.
“The fifth ring is families of the friends of the people in the area, and we have at least two positive cases in the family ring.
“The sixth ring is the primary close contacts of those cases, we are testing those people today.
“And the seventh ring is their secondary close contacts, who are all locked down in isolation.”
Mr Weimar said he suspected the outbreak was “moving more quickly than we have ever seen in Victoria, or I suspect anywhere else in Australia”
There are 16 cases linked to the two chains of transmission, with 75 exposure sites and more than 2000 close contacts.
“Some of them very large and complex locations,” Mr Weimar said.
Victoria emerged from its fourth coronavirus lockdown last month.
In response to the new cases, health authorities immediately brought back masks with Melburnians required to wear them indoors and outside, when social distancing is not possible.
This means masks are required in workplaces such as offices and factories.
Masks were previously not mandatory if employees did not deal with the public.
Speaking this morning, Professor James Trauer, from Monash University in Melbourne, said he believed a snap lockdown was inevitable for the city.
“It seems likely. We have seen increasing cases over the last few days, more exposure sites every day and we know that if we go early with lockdowns, the earlier we go, the shorter they need to be,” he told Sunrise.
“We need to get on top of this and we still don’t really understand the scale of the number of cases that have been created at the moment.”
Dr Robert Grenfell, the CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Director, said the Delta strain had changed the way authorities dealt with outbreaks.
“I don’t think Victoria will take any chances with this one. The virus only respects tough, hard lockdowns and obviously vaccinations,” he told Today.
“At the moment the cases they have announced all fit into a chain of infections, coming mainly out of the housing complex. If there are other cases that appear, that don’t necessarily have direct links to those, that’s a concern that the virus is now spreading through the community.”