Around 300,000 people living in the suburbs of Melbourne will go under lockdown for a month from Wednesday evening after the number of positive coronavirus infections rose in double digits for two weeks.
The “unacceptable number of cases” prompted Australian authorities to try and contain the outbreaks in the country’s second largest city, which has a population of nearly five million people.
More than 30 suburbs will return to stage-three restrictions, which will confine residents to their homes except for grocery shopping, medical appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.
The state of Victoria recorded 73 new cases on Tuesday from 20,682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday.
State premier Daniel Andrews said during a press briefing: “We need every Victorian family, particularly those in these lockdown postcodes, to know and understand that while this is deeply inconvenient for you, you are making a massive contribution for the whole state and indeed the whole nation.
“If you are sick, you cannot go out. The only thing you should be doing if you are sick is getting tested.
“If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission… across metropolitan Melbourne. Ultimately if I didn’t shut down those postcodes I’d be shutting down all postcodes. We want to avoid that,” he added.
The spike in cases has been linked to staff members at hotels where travellers who returned to Australia were being quarantined, indicating breaches of quarantine protocols.
The state authorities have announced an inquiry into the management of hotel quarantine. Mr Andrew requested that all international flights be diverted from Melbourne for the next two weeks to reduce the number of travellers who would need to be placed in quarantine, reported The Age.
For more detail about local restrictions, visit: https://t.co/6QeaZKam0n
If you have friends or family in these areas, please make sure they have this information.— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP)July 1, 2020
The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said the surge in positive cases was a “heartbreaking turn in the epidemic” for Australia, which has fared better than many countries during the pandemic. Australia has reported around 7,830 cases and 104 deaths.
He said: “That is a significant doubling rate and it was that trend and the fact that we had to turn it around that prompted me to take these actions.
“These are the right public health actions and we know that they can work.”