All of Victoria will enter a strict five-day lockdown from 11.59pm tonight in order to slow the spread of the Holiday Inn COVID-19 outbreak that has since grown to 19 cases.
According to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the Stage 4 lockdown is necessary to allow contact tracers to manage this outbreak of the UK variant of COVID-19, described as "the fastest moving, most infectious strain of coronavirus we have seen".
In response, Queensland has announced it will be closing its border to all people who have been in Greater Melbourne from 1am on Saturday with the measures to be in force for 14 days at which point a review will be made.
New South Wales is requiring any Victorian that entered the state on or after 29 January 2021 to remain at home or place of residence until midnight on Wednesday, while Western Australia has implemented a hard border with VIC.
As such, from 11.59pm AEDT today, Victorians will be required to stay at home for five days until 11.59pm on Wednesday.
Exceptions have been made for Victorians to leave the house for four reasons:
- Shopping for necessary goods,
- Caregiving and compassionate reasons,
- Essential work or permitted education,
- And exercise for two hours per day with household members, an intimate partner, or one other person who is not from the same household.
However, Victorians must stay within 5km of their homes if leaving.
In addition, masks must be worn everywhere other than in the home
Private and public gatherings will not be permitted, and all Victorians have been encouraged to work from home where possible.
Schools will close but will remain available on Monday to Wednesday next week for vulnerable children and children of frontline health workers.
Places of worship will be closed other than for broadcasting of services, funerals can have a maximum of 10 people in attendance, and all weddings are not permitted.
Most non-essential businesses and places of gathering will close too including:
- Hairdressing and beauty services
- Real estate auctions
- Indoor physical recreation and sport venues
- Outdoor recreation and community sport
- Swimming pools
- Community facilities including libraries
- Creative studios
- Entertainment venues
- Non-essential retail
Hospitality venues will move to takeaway only and outdoor playgrounds will stay open.
Andrews also indicated that flight cancellations are likely during the five-day period, except for those already on their way.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Australian Open tennis tournament will continue but no crowds will be permitted to spectate.
In addition, Victoria's Department of Health has updated its earlier public health alert about a café in Melbourne Airport to include all of Terminal 4.
As such, anyone who was in Terminal 4 of Melbourne Airport on Tuesday 9 February between 4.45am to 2pm must isolate for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19.
Outbreak moving "at light speed"
According to Premier Andrews, the five-day lockdown is warranted because of the way positive infections are presenting to Victorian health officials.
He said onces cases test positive, they have already infected all of their close contacts making it difficult to conduct contact tracing.
As such, this "circuit-breaker" lockdown will give contact tracers the room required to get on top of this fast-moving variant of COVID-19.
"It's not moving quickly. It's at light speed," Andrews said.
"We must assume there are further cases in the community than we have positive tests for and that it is moving at a velocity that has not been seen in our country.
"If we wait for that theory to be proven correct, it will be too late. Then we face the prospect of being locked down until a vaccine is rolled out...that's months."
This five-day lockdown is similar to successful circuit-breaker lockdowns done in SA, QLD and WA.
"This is a short, sharp blast the same as we've seen in Queensland and WA that will give us the what we need to get ahead of this faster moving virus," Andrews said.
"Right now, we are reaching close contacts well within the 48-hour benchmark. But the time between exposure, incubation, symptoms and testing positive is rapidly shortening. So much so, that even secondary close contacts are potentially infectious within that 48-hour window.
"It shows just how incredibly infectious this virus is. And our public health team tell us it's only getting faster."
Andrews has also called upon the Federal Government to consider changing the rules around repatriation of Australian citizens and oter international travellers.
"It's a different virus and we should have a mature discussion about just how many people are coming back (to Australia) and the circumstances in which they're coming back and why they are given the opportunity this way," he said.
States implement border restrictions
In response to Andrews' announcement, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles has announced the border will be closed to people who have been in greater Melbourne for a period of 14 days, starting 1am saturday.
QLD will review the new border arrangement with Melburnians in 14 days.
South Australia, which closed its border to Greater Melbourne earlier this week, has now shut its borders to the entire state of VIC.
Further, anyone in SA who has been through Tullamarine Airport from 7 February is required to get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.
Western Australia has now implemented a hard border to VIC.
In New South Wales, anyone who has been in VIC at any time on or after Friday 29 January 2021 remains at their home or place of residence for the five-day period lockdown period.
Tasmania has declared all of VIC a high-risk state, meaning all travellers to Tasmania will have to self-isolate for two weeks at their home or in hotel quarantine.
Victorians will also be blocked from entering the Australian Capital Territory from midnight tonight, and any returning residents will be required to isolate at home until the five-day period is over.
Finally, any Melburnian entering the Northern Territory will be required to isolate for two weeks at the Howard Springs quarantine facility.
Updated at 1.35pm AEDT on 12 February 2021.
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