Image by William WEST / AFP
A six-week, stage three lockdown will be reinforced across metropolitan Melbourne from Wednesday night, prohibiting residents from leaving their homes unless it’s for essential reasons such as work, study, exercise, shopping for food and other necessities, or to provide and receive care.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the tightening of restrictions on Tuesday afternoon following a record spike in COVID-19 cases for the state. In the 24 hours leading up to the announcement, 191 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Victoria, bringing the total to 2,824. Of those, 772 are currently active and 154 remain under investigation.
In a public address, Premier Andrews stressed the importance of the renewed lockdown measures, warning that “thousands” of people would die if the coronavirus outbreak continued to spiral out of control.
“I’m very sorry that we find ourselves in this position. I would, with the greatest of respect, put it to you getting this virus and dying from it is very onerous too,” he said. “Let’s not see it as simply an inconvenience. It’s much more than that. It’s a pandemic. And it will kill thousands of people if it gets completely away from us.
“That will be more than inconvenient. It will be tragic. We don’t want that. We can avoid that but we all have a part to play in that.”
Those areas under lockdown will also be subject to strict limits on gatherings: prohibiting visits to other people’s homes unless it’s an intimate partner, and limiting public gatherings to no more than two people (or a household group). Funerals will be limited to no more than 10 people.
Cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars in affected areas will also need to revert to takeaway only, while retail outlets, markets and hairdressers are allowed to stay open, subject to certain conditions.
Metropolitan Melbourne, also known as Greater Melbourne, includes the following 31 municipalities: Banyule, Bayside, Boroondara, Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Kingston, Knox, Manningham, Maribyrnong, Maroondah, Melbourne, Melton, Monash, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Mornington Peninsula, Nillumbik, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Whitehorse, Whittlesea, Wyndham, Yarra and Yarra Ranges.
The Mitchell shire, about 100 kilometres north of the Melbourne CBD, is also covered by the lockdown.
Announcement of the far-reaching stage three restrictions comes just days after the Victorian Government abruptly and controversially imposed a “hard lockdown” on nine public housing towers in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, prohibiting the 3,000 residents of the tower blocks from leaving their homes for any reason.
The rollout of the measures over the weekend, which saw some 500 police deployed to the towers amid concerns of an outbreak among the residents, was heavily criticised by members of the public for the allegedly callous and heavy-handed way in which it was enforced.
Premier Andrews addressed those concerns in his address on Tuesday afternoon.
“Can I send a very clear message to every Victorian who is concerned for those residents: we all are,” he said.
“The strategy here is to complete the testing [of all residents at the public housing towers] and then as soon as possible, once that testing is complete, to have those nine towers removed to the same footing that the rest of Melbourne will move to … A stay-at-home with four reasons for leaving.
“This is not going to last a moment longer than it needs to, to keep those residents safe and to have what I know are very, very challenging measures. But they are proportionate to the risk when you consider, as we’ve said many times, the fact that so many people in those nine towers are among some of the most vulnerable people in our Victorian community.”
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