The Australian state of Victoria has declared a state of disaster and imposed new lockdown measures after a surge in coronavirus infections.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the restrictions would go into effect at 6 p.m. (9 a.m. BST) on Sunday.
Under the new rules, residents of the state capital, Melbourne, will be subject to a nighttime curfew.
The city’s stay-at-home order will be improved, giving residents fewer exemptions to leave home.
Residents will not be allowed to travel more than 3.1 miles (5 km) from their home, exercise will be limited to once per day, and one person will be able to do most grocery shopping at a time.
After early success in suppressing the virus, Australia has recorded fewer cases than many other countries, recording around 17,000 infections and 200 deaths.
But cases are increasing rapidly in Victoria, which explains many of the new infections in Australia in recent weeks, prompting the return of lockdown restrictions in early July.
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- Melbourne returns to full lockdown
On Sunday, the state reported 671 new cases of coronavirus and seven deaths. These increases brought the total to 11,557 infections and 123 deaths.
Mr Andrews said the lockdown measures introduced in Victoria – Australia’s second most populous state – were working but too slowly.
“We need to do more. We must go further. This is the only way we can get to the other side, ”Andrews said at a press conference.
Mr Andrews said the lockdown rule changes announced on Sunday would remain in effect until at least September 13.
What are the new restrictions?
Mr Andrews said Melbourne will switch to the fourth stage restrictions on Sunday, placing new limits on the movement of people.
This will include a nighttime curfew, which will be implemented across Melbourne from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. from Sunday.
The only reasons for leaving home during these hours will be work, medical care or care.
Melbourne residents will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 3 miles of their home. Exercising outside the home will only be allowed for one hour at a time.
All students across the state will return to home learning and daycares will be closed.
The Regional Victoria will switch to the third stage restrictions starting Thursday, meaning restaurants, cafes, bars and gyms will close at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
To ensure that these rules are followed, police will be given additional powers, Mr Andrews said.
“These are big steps but they are necessary,” said Andrews. “We need to limit the amount of movement, therefore limit the amount of transmission of this virus. We have to fight against this. “
Why has Victoria become the epicenter of the epidemic in Australia?
For months Australia has felt optimistic about containing the Covid-19. The country’s curve flattened rapidly four months ago with the enforcement of locks and mandatory hotel quarantines for people entering the country.
Previously, most cases have come from travelers returning from overseas, but a resurgence of the virus in Melbourne has proven to be a major setback for the country.
Local transmissions have become a key source of infections, blaming the authorities.
At the beginning of July, around 300,000 people were ordered to withdraw as part of an operation assisted by the army to “close” 10 postcodes in the center of the epidemic.
Then, around five million Melbourne residents were asked to stay in their homes for six weeks.
Initially, Mr Andrews identified the origin of numerous infections with security guards who allegedly broke lockdown rules while monitoring quarantines at hotels.
Health experts say the loosening of rules, complacency in social distancing and sheer bad luck have all contributed to the increase in the number of cases in Victoria.
Now Mr Andrews says the current rate of community transmission – including “mystery cases” that cannot be traced at work or at home – is far too high.
“And they’re telling us, based on the current number, cases might start dropping, not in days or weeks, but in months,” Andrews said. “It’s not something I’m ready to accept. “
Learn more about the Melbourne lockdown:
- The 3,000 Australians who were in police custody at home
- Border town divided by lockdown