The government of the country’s second most populous state announced it was bringing back a stay-at-home order after confirming 191 new Covid-19 infections overnight.
“These are unsustainably high numbers of new cases,” state premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.
The new restrictions will come into force from Wednesday night in metropolitan Melbourne – Australia’s second largest city – and the nearby region of Mitchell. They are planned to remain in place for six weeks.
People in the affected areas will only be allowed to leave their houses for food and essential items, to give or receive care, for exercise, or to work if they cannot do so from home. Restaurants and cafes will only be open for takeaway, and entertainment and cultural venues and will be forced to shut, along with beauty salons.
Twelves other areas of Victoria have already been in enhanced lockdown since last week following a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Mr Andrews said “a creeping complacency” had developed in the southeastern state, which lifted its stay-at-home order at the start of June.
He added: “I know a lot of people aren’t scared because this feels like something happening to other people in other parts of the world. But you should be scared of this. I’m scared of this. We all should be.
“It’s clear we are on the cusp of our second wave — and we cannot let this virus cut through our communities.”
Victoria recorded its previous high of 127 new coronavirus cases on Monday. The state’s premier described the latest record as a “grim milestone”. He added that two people had died of Covid-19 in the state in the past 36 hours.
“We are in many respects in a more precarious, challenging and potentially tragic position now than we were some months ago,” Mr Andrews said.
Australia has been one of the most successful nations in the world at containing its coronavirus outbreak. The nation of 26 million people has recorded 8,586 cases of the disease and 106 deaths.
Victoria has been under some of the country’s toughest and longest-lasting pandemic restrictions, raising questions about how the virus has resurged in the state.
State authorities have been praised for their aggressive testing and contact tracing. Melbourne researchers developed what they described as the world’s first coronavirus saliva test, a less accurate but more comfortable diagnostic tool than nasal swabs, in an effort to encourage more people to agree to door-to-door testing.
But Victoria has also seen hundreds of new cases of Covid-19 linked to two Melbourne hotels being used as quarantine centres for travellers returning to the country.
There have been reports of private contractors having sex with quarantined travellers at the hotels, as well as alleged failures to provide proper training and personal protective equipment and multiple protocol breaches.
Mr Andrews last week announced a judicial inquiry into the management of the centres, saying: “It is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened.”