These restrictions include a curfew in Melbourne for the next six weeks, a ban on marriages and schools must return to online classes. Only one person per household is allowed to leave their home once a day – outside of curfew hours – to collect essential items, and they must stay within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of their home. home.
On Monday, new business restrictions were announced, including the shutdown of non-essential industries.
The state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the largest city, recorded 429 Covid-19 infections on Sunday, up from 671 cases the day before, according to Professor Brett Sutton, Victoria’s director of health. Thirteen new deaths were also announced, bringing the state’s total to 136, and there were a total of 11,937 confirmed infections.
But cases of Covid-19 in Victoria have suddenly increased in recent weeks, with numerous new infections in nursing homes for the elderly and among healthcare workers. Eight of the 13 new deaths on Sunday are linked to known outbreaks in senior care facilities.
“This six-week period is absolutely critical,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said during a daily press briefing on Monday. “It’s a very difficult day and there will be a lot more until we get to the end. “
Andrews clarified the impact of the new restrictions on business, saying supermarkets, grocery stores, butchers, banks, gas stations, newsstands and post offices will all remain open.
At 11:59 p.m. local time on Wednesday, some businesses such as retail, manufacturing, and government will close. Industries that are shrinking include construction and meat, which Andrews says is a “big challenge for us.”
Warehouses, distribution centers and meat processing plants will reduce operations by a third and impose some of the “strictest safety protocols ever in an industrial environment.” Workers will be “dressed as if they are a health worker,” Andrews said, with masks and gowns, shields, temperature checks and tests.
About 250,000 people are already out of work due to a virus in Victoria state, and new sector restrictions mean that number will likely double, Andrews said. Around 500,000 people currently work from home.
“The full impact of this pandemic, which is now months old, will take us years to recover. There is no doubt about it, ”he said.
The hard measures will be “very difficult but that is what is necessary” to bring down the number of coronaviruses, he said, “so after six weeks we have every chance to regain control”.
“It’s hard to imagine what a stage five might look like. But it would radically change the way people live. Not only the rules on when and where you can shop, but also the restrictions on purchases, ”said Andrews, referring to the toughest measures likely to be implemented in the future. .
Residents of Melbourne had already been under strict measures for most of July after the region was identified as the epicenter of Australia’s second wave.
Ben Fessey, 30, an agricultural commodities broker living in Melbourne said there was “a heavy mood in the streets” before the new restrictions took effect on Sunday.
“We have the impression that it has just been underway,” he said, adding that the different measures “merge”.
Fessey said there was some frustration but “no feeling that there were any marches or protests from what I saw. Everyone is always pretty on board for the greatest good. ”
Outside of metropolitan Melbourne, the Victoria area will be subject to third stage restrictions from midnight Wednesday, meaning cafes, bars and restaurants must be closed. All schools in Victoria will also return to e-learning.
Police on patrol have been frequent in Melbourne, as authorities seek to enforce rules relating to leaving home and compulsory wearing of face masks.
Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said on Saturday that an additional 500 members of the Australian Defense Force were waiting to join 1,400 soldiers who were already helping the coronavirus response in Victoria.
How did it get so bad?
The spike in cases and the month-long restrictions made Melbourne an outlier to the rest of the country.
New South Wales reported 13 new cases on Sunday, South Australia two and Queensland recorded no cases.
Andrews said Sunday that the state had 760 “mystery cases” where “we cannot trace the source of this person’s infection.”
“These mysteries and this community transmission are in many ways our biggest challenge and the reason why we need to switch to a different set of rules,” Andrews said.
Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said the increases in numbers seen in Victoria were not happening in the rest of Australia.
“What happened in Melbourne was breaches in the quarantine, the transmission of people in quarantine to security guards in these hotels, and then the spread among the communities linked to those security guards,” Lewin said.
Australian officials last month opened a judicial inquiry amid allegations a new coronavirus outbreak in Victoria was triggered by some contract workers not following protocols at a hotel used to quarantine arrivals international – including having had sex with people under lock and key.
“We have also had outbreaks in certain industries, which is quite common around the world. We are also seeing outbreaks in housing projects so we are seeing different communities affected which is much more difficult now. So the problem is bigger, ”said Lewin.
Andrews said on Friday that more than 130 people – one in four of those who tested positive – were caught defying orders to stay at home. The firing teams sent to check for infected people were increased to 34 teams of three, he said.
Victoria Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien on Sunday blamed the government’s’ failures’ on ‘hotel quarantine, testing and contact tracing that led millions of Victorians to be subjected to the most restrictions. most severe in our history ”.
CNN’s Rob Picheta contributed reporting and writing.