Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has bowed to the realities of his state’s spiralling coronavirus infections and introduced the nation’s toughest lockdown restrictions.
The state recorded 671 new cases on Sunday, and seven more elderly Victorians have died.
Six of the fatalities were connected to virus outbreaks in aged-care homes.
On Sunday, Mr Andrews declared a “state of disaster” will be in place from 6pm and metro areas will be put under stage four lockdown restrictions, including a strict night-time curfew.
“Absolutely straight up…if we don’t make these changes we are not going to get through this,” he said.
Victorian students will return to “flexible and remote learning” from Wednesday, with a pupil-free day declared for Tuesday.
Statement on Melbourne moving to Stage 4 restrictions: pic.twitter.com/mFu1Kr1NO0
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) August 2, 2020
Mr Andrews said the advice had been that if the government did not change tactics now, Victoria would continue to see cases growing and would need to be under the current rules until Christmas.
Instead, a tougher stage four lockdown will be in place for six weeks.
“Six weeks versus a slower strategy … that takes up to six months, I’m not prepared to accept that,” Mr Andrew said.
These are very significant steps – they’re not taken lightly.’’
Mr Andrews has been under mounting pressure to further lock Victoria down as the previous stay-home orders and mandatory face mask restrictions fail to curb the steepening curve of new infections.
The Premier confirmed stage four lockdown restrictions for metro areas would include stopping people going further than 5km from their homes and limiting exercise to one hour per day.
Only one person per household will be allowed to go shopping.
Statement on regional Victoria moving to Stage 3 restrictions: pic.twitter.com/wzUOIG769X
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) August 2, 2020
From 8pm Sunday, a curfew will exist in metropolitan Melbourne. People will only be allowed out of home between 8pm and 5am to go to work, or give and receive care.
“Going to a mate’s place, going and visiting friends, being out and about for no good reason … that will spread the virus,” Mr Andrews said.
From midnight Wednesday, regional areas will be moved to stage three.
“We cannot let this virus tear through regional aged care in the way it has with private sector aged care in Melbourne,” Mr Andrews said.
“We cannot let it mean more Victorians in hospital beds. More Victorians hooked up to machines just to breathe.
And more Victorians – more grandparents, parents, sons, daughters, partners and loved ones – choked to death by an invisible enemy.’’
It means non-essential businesses such as restaurants, gyms and bars must close from midnight Wednesday.
The new stage four lockdown restrictions for Melbourne include:
- From Sunday, an 8pm-5am curfew in Melbourne. “The only reasons to leave home during these hours will be work, medical care and caregiving,” Mr Andrews said.
- People will be limited to staying within five kilometres of their home.
- Only one person, per household, per day will be allowed to go shopping.
- Exercise will be limited to a maximum of one hour per day and no more than five kilometres from your home, with a group size limited to a maximum of two – “you and one other person – whether you live with them or not.”
- TAFE and uni study must be done remotely.
- From Wednesday at 11:59pm, weddings in Melbourne cannot occur.
From 11:59pm Wednesday, regional Victoria is also returning to its stage three ‘stay home’ orders, meaning people must remain in their house unless going out for essential shopping, care and caregiving, daily exercise, and work or study.
Regional businesses will also be affected, with food businesses restricted to delivery and takeaway. Beauty and personal services, entertainment and cultural venues, and community sport will have to close.
Mr Andrews said Mitchell Shire, which was previously linked with the Melbourne restrictions, will now be classed among the rules for regional Victoria instead.
Melbourne was placed into lockdown for a second time on July 9, as cases began to balloon.
It was hoped the new restrictions would help flatten the curve of new cases, but even after the mandatory masks order, Victoria’s numbers continued to grow, with several days of above 600 new cases in the last week.
Mr Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison had flagged last week that tougher rules were on the way for Victoria, when the Premier said Melbourne was already at “essentially stage four”.
Mr Andrews said on Saturday he was worried about potential “mystery cases” of community transmission in Victoria, above and beyond what was being detected in tests and official data.
“That is in some respect our biggest challenge,” he said.
“We’re working collaboratively and closely with them as they seek to address this second wave,” federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, and himself a Victorian, told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda.
“We’ll continue to offer as much support as we can and work with the Victorian state government.”
The new rules come as authorities remain enraged over numerous examples of people blatantly flouting COVID rules.
Police said they had fined Victorians found driving far from home, who have given unacceptable excuses such as needing to buy McDonald’s or get fresh air hundreds of kilometres away.
In response to a growing number of infections outside Melbourne, Victorians in some regional shires were barred from having people over to their houses from midnight Thursday last week.
And masks are mandatory for all Victorians – not just those in Mitchell Shire and Melbourne – from Sunday night.
The Premier has been pleading for workers to stay home if they are sick, pointing to outbreaks being directly linked to workplaces.
Unions and the federal Labor opposition have been calling for paid pandemic leave to be supplied by the federal government, to help encourage people to stay home if they are unwell or isolating while waiting for a test result.