Australia yesterday imposed an overnight curfew on its second-biggest city and banned people from moving more than 5km from home to control a growing COVID-19 outbreak that is infecting hundreds daily.
Declaring a “state of disaster,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said that Melbourne would move to Stage 4 restrictions until Sept. 13 given “unacceptably high” levels of community transmission.
Under the harshest rules in Australia to date, city residents are to face a curfew from 8 pm to 5 am for the next six weeks. Only those carrying out essential work, or seeking or providing care, are to be allowed out.
“The time for leniency, the time for warnings and cautions is over,” Andrews said. “If you are not at home and you should be, if you have the virus and are just going about your business, you will be dealt with harshly. Lives are at stake.”
Melbourne residents would be limited to an hour of exercise a day, no further than 5km from home, starting last night.
Only one person per household is allowed to shop for essential items each day, also within the same strict radius.
Most school and university students in Melbourne would go back to online learning from midnight on Wednesday, just weeks after returning to their classrooms, while weddings would also be banned.
The sweeping new measures follow a citywide lockdown that began early last month, but has failed to curb the spread of the virus, with Andrews blaming the continuing rise in cases on people flouting stay-at-home orders.
“These are the decisions made because anything short of this will not keep us safe,” Andrews said, adding that anything less “will see it drag on for months and months and months.”
Additional restrictions affecting workplaces would be announced today, Andrews added, suggesting that non-essential businesses would face closures.
Victoria accounts for the vast majority of active coronavirus cases in Australia, recording 671 new cases and seven deaths from the virus yesterday.
Health authorities have linked the resurgence to security bungles at hotels used to quarantine international travelers that allowed the virus to leak back into the community.
Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that an estimated 20,000 cases were averted during Stage 3 restrictions, but flattening the curve to hundreds of new cases a day was “intolerable.”
“We need to see those numbers through the eyes of our healthcare workers and the kind of awful fear that they have about what it means for people presenting to hospital,” he said.
Outside Melbourne, the rest of Victoria would move to a Stage 3 lockdown from midnight on Wednesday, with people allowed to leave home only for essential work, study, care and needed supplies.
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