Melbourne put under curfew as virus runs wild
Australia imposed an overnight curfew on its second-biggest city on Sunday and banned people from moving more than 5 kilometers from home in a bid to control a growing coronavirus outbreak that is infecting hundreds daily.
Declaring a “state of disaster,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Melbourne would move to Stage 4 restrictions until September 13 given “unacceptably high” levels of community transmission.
The harshest rules in Australia to date will see city residents face a curfew from 8pm to 5am for the next six weeks. Only those carrying out essential work, or seeking or providing care, will 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 will be limited to an hour of exercise a day, no further than 5 kilometers from home starting last night.
Only one person per household will be able to shop for essential items each day, also within the same strict radius.
Most school and university students in Melbourne will go back to online learning from midnight Wednesday, just weeks after returning to their classrooms, while weddings will also be banned.
The sweeping new measures follow a citywide lockdown that began in early July but has failed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, 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 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 will face closure.
Victoria accounts for the vast majority of active coronavirus cases in Australia, recording 671 new cases and seven deaths from the virus on Sunday.
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.
The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said 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 health-care workers and the kind of awful fear that they have about what it means for people presenting to hospital,” he said.
The virus has spread rapidly among vulnerable residents in aged-care centers, where government disaster relief teams have been deployed to replace infected staff.
Outside Melbourne, the rest of Victoria will move to a Stage 3 lockdown from midnight Wednesday with people allowed to leave home only for essential work, study, care and needed supplies.
Elsewhere in Australia, other states and territories have for weeks reported few or no new cases while relaxing restrictions.