Australia : Melbourne heads towards sixth lockdown
Melbourne and the rest of Victoria state will enter a seven-day lockdown from 8 p.m. local time on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. The nation’s second-largest city last year endured one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, and only emerged from its most recent one on July 28. Sydney, meanwhile, has issued stay-at-home orders until at least August 28.
The lockdowns show the limits of Australia’s so-called “Covid-zero” strategy, which has relied on closed international borders and rigorous testing to eliminate community transmission of the virus. Its economy, particularly the domestic tourism and retail sectors, is increasingly being hit by the outbreaks.
The lockdown will apply statewide and follow the same rules as the last lockdown, which ended a week ago. Andrews said he had no alternative but to introduce the lockdown as soon as unlinked cases had been detected in the community.
“There are no alternatives to lockdown,” he said. “If you wait, it will spread. And once it spreads, you can never even hope to run alongside it let alone get out in front of it and bring it back down to zero or a low number of cases. This thing moves so fast.”
“We don’t have enough people that have been vaccinated, and therefore, this is the only option available to us,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “Once people are vaccinated, then we have many more options to the question about whether there are other things you could do.”
The lockdown will last for seven days and there will only be five reasons for leaving home: getting groceries and supplies, exercise, care or caregiving, authorised work or education that cannot be done from home and getting vaccinated.
Under the rules, shopping and exercise must be done within five kilometres of your home. Mask rules will remain unchanged, with masks mandatory in all indoor and outdoor settings except for inside your own home.
With around 35,200 COVID-19 cases and 932 deaths, Australia has avoided the high caseloads of other developed countries but its vaccination figures are among the lowest, with only 20% of its population over 16 fully vaccinated.
Health experts expect the country to endure stop-and-start lockdowns until it reaches a high vaccination coverage, but lawmakers are under mounting pressure to ease restrictions for those unable to work.