As anticipated in the last 24 hours, a snap 7-day lockdown has been announced in Victoria from midnight tonight. Acting Premier James Merlino announced the snap lockdown after a morning of speculation as the coronavirus cluster that started in Melbourne’s north rose to 34 cases. It has also spread to more than 70 exposure sites across the city and into regional areas.
“In the past day, we have seen 12 linked new cases, bringing the total number of cases linked to the hotel quarantine breach in South Australia to 26. Sadly, we have one of those people in an ICU, on a ventilator, in not a very good way,” Mr Merlino said.
“We’ve seen more evidence we’re dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded.”
Just as Australia, in particular Victoria had started feeling victory over Corona, we got this international arrival via South Australia who reported got infected in hotel quarantine there and brought the virus which is more contagious and more deadly into the state.
The infection has moved at such a fast pace that there are now at least 10,000 primary and secondary contacts, who will need to be tested and self-isolate.
“Our contact tracers are identifying and locking down the first ring, second ring, and third ring within 24 hours. They have never done that before,” he said.
Also read: Is snap lockdown on the way?
“But despite working as fast as this … this variant is moving faster still.”
What is more concerning is the fact that the authorities believe this variant of the virus has been transmitted in less than a day in some cases, compared to five-six days for previous variants.
“If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, this thing will get away from us,” he said.
From midnight tonight, Victorians will be restricted to the usual 4 reasons to leave home:
- seeking or giving medical care,
- essential work,
- shopping for necessary items, and
- two hours of exercise a day.
The government wants all eligible Victorians to get vaccinated as soon as possible and therefore they are allowed to leave home to get vaccinated during this 7-day lockdown.
The state has announced expanding eligibility for shots to everyone aged over 40.
“I can announce that from tomorrow morning, vaccinations at state sites will be expanded to include those in the 40 to 49-year-old age group, for the Pfizer vaccine”, Mr Merlino said.
“I really encourage everyone, if you’re eligible, get vaccinated,” he said.
5 Kilometres radius
During the lockdown, all Victorians will be restricted to remain within five kilometres of their homes.
Masks will be mandatory for everyone leaving their home, indoors and out.
All Victorian schools will return to remote learning.
Only essential shops will be open. Other businesses will observe the lockdown and stay closed.
Restaurants and Cafes – Takeaway ONLY
Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway service.
“The reason why we are dealing with this outbreak today is because of a hotel breach in South Australia. That is not a criticism, it is just a fact. We have had breaches in hotel quarantine right around our country.
“The only way through this pandemic is everyone getting vaccinated as quickly as you are eligible, and for the Commonwealth to agree to an alternative quarantine arrangement, particularly for high-risk individuals.”
Despite that, Mr Merlino said the vaccination program was “not where we hoped it would be”.
Lamenting that the vaccine roll out has been slower than hoped, James Merlion said “…If more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a very different set of circumstances than we are today. But sadly we are not.”
Waking up to the risks highlighted by this latest scare, Victorians have started to take vaccination seriously. A record number of 12,677 people got vaccinated in Victoria in the last 24 hours.
However Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Paul Guerra is not happy. Commenting on the 7-day lockdown Mr Guerra says this this fourth wave lockdown will be devastating for business because there are no supports like JobKeeper or rent relief this time around.
“We estimated that the five-day Valentine’s Day lockdown cost Victorian business more than $1 billion so we are looking at a hit of around $1 billion this time around, and that’s if it remains confined to the seven days. The Victorian Chamber will be advocating for a substantial assistance package for impacted businesses.”
For this 7-day snap lockdown, the state Opposition is also blaming the maladministration and mishandling of the COVID issue in the state.
“Victorians have once again been dealt a huge blow. A blow to mental health, a blow to small business, a blow to our economy – a blow to our confidence.
“Victorians ask why we are the only state to have a fourth lockdown.
“We ask why the government’s contact tracing hasn’t kept this outbreak confined”, the leader of the Opposition Michael O’Brien said.