Risk of COVID-19 spreading in Australia 'extremely high’ as cases spike

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4-min read
Women hold signs outside housing commission apartments under lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday, July 6, 2020. The leader of Australia’s most populous state says her government’s decision to close its border with hard-hit Victoria state marks a new phase in the country’s coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Women hold signs outside housing commission apartments under lockdown in Melbourne, Australia. (AP)

Australia has placed millions back into lockdown following a spike of coronavirus cases.

The country has been among the world's most successful in containing its coronavirus outbreak – with the exception of Melbourne, its second-largest city.

The south-eastern state of Victoria had some of the nation's toughest pandemic measures and was among the most reluctant to lift restrictions when the worst of the outbreak seemed to have passed.

But as most of the country emerges from lockdown restrictions, in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, the virus has resumed spreading at an alarming rate.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 08: Paramedics are seen at the North Melbourne Public Housing tower complex on July 08, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Further lockdown measures for residents in metropolitan Melbourne or the Mitchell shire will come into effect from 11:59 Wednesday 8 July. Under the new lockdown restrictions which will be in place for six weeks, people will only able to leave home have for exercise or work, to buy essential items including food or to access childcare and healthcare. Victorians cannot gather in groups of more than two or their household group, school holidays will be extended for at least a week. Retail can remain open and markets are permitted to open for food and drink only. Cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars are back to takeaway only. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Paramedics are seen at the North Melbourne Public Housing tower complex in Melbourne. (Getty)

The border between Victoria and New South Wales, the busiest in the country, was closed overnight and around 4.9 million Melbourne residents will return to partial lockdown at midnight following a spike in COVID-19 cases in the city.

As New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian warned that the probability of COVID-19 spreading from Victoria to her state was "extremely high", Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said the country should now slow down the return of its citizens from abroad as it attempts to get to grips with the spike.

He said: "The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you're going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it's for the broader Australian community.”

Victoria reported 134 new infections on Wednesday, down from the previous day's record 191 but well over the low single-digit daily increases of the country's other seven states and territories.

Victoria's premier Daniel Andrews said the entire city and some of its surrounding areas will be locked down under tougher restrictions than were imposed during the first shutdown, which started in March.

He added: “We are in many respects in a more precarious, challenging and potentially tragic position now than we were some months ago.”

In Melbourne, renewed lockdown measures will kick in at midnight for at least six weeks, closing down cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms, and confining residents to their homes except for essential business.

About 3,000 residents of nine public housing high-rise buildings were given just an hour's notice at the weekend before being prohibited from leaving their apartments for at least five days.

"The amount of police officers makes us feel like we're criminals," said a resident of one of the buildings, Nada Osman. "It's overwhelming. It's scary. It's like we're caged in.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, May 1, 2020. Morrison stands firm on his call for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus and denied any motivation other than to prevent such a pandemic happening again. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said the country should now slow down the return of its citizens from abroad in an attempt to get to grips with the spike. (AP)

Forty suburbs that are virus hotspots have been locked down by postal code since last week, meaning businesses and households in some areas face restrictions while ones across the street do not.

New Zealand's national carrier has put a temporary hold on new bookings for flights into the country while the government tries to find enough quarantined hotel rooms for people returning home.

Air New Zealand says the hold will last for three weeks and it is also trying to better align flights with the hotel locations.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 07: Passengers have their temperature checked by health officials as they arrive from a Qantas flight at Sydney Airport on one of the last flights out of Melbourne to Sydney on July 07, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. The NSW-Victoria border will close at 11:59pm on Tuesday evening due to a large spike in COVID-19 cases in Victoria. It is the first time in 100 years the border between the two states has been closed, and comes after Victoria recorded its highest-ever daily increase in cases, 127, since the start of the pandemic on Monday, along with the deaths of two Victorian men. From 12:01 Wednesday 8 July, NSW residents returning from Victoria will need to self isolate for 14 days. Special provisions will be in place for border communities such as Albury-Wodonga as well as freight operations and other critical services. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
Passengers have their temperature checked by health officials as they arrive from a Qantas flight at Sydney Airport on one of the last flights out of Melbourne to Sydney. (Getty)

Fears of a second wave of coronavirus increased last week after three new COVID-19 cases in Australia’s national capital, Canberra, were reported.

Two of the infected people had returned from Melbourne last week, and the third was their housemate.

In Sydney, authorities were scrambling to track down 48 passengers who were allowed to disembark a flight from Melbourne overnight without being checked for COVID-19 symptoms.

Nationwide, Australia has reported around 9,000 COVID-19 cases and 106 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.

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