Australia’s second most populous state, Victoria, will enter a week-long lockdown against COVID-19 forcing its nearly seven million people to stay at home except on essential business as authorities fight to contain a highly infectious epidemic.
From 11:59 p.m. local time (13:59 GMT), Thursday through June 3, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential work, health care, shopping, shopping, exercise or to get the coronavirus vaccine.
“We have seen more evidence that we are dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is working faster than we have ever recorded,” said the acting premier of Victoria state , James Merlino, to reporters in Melbourne.
Merlino said contact tracers have identified more than 10,000 primary and secondary contacts who would need to quarantine, test and self-isolate, adding that “this number will continue to grow and change.”
A new cluster of infections in Melbourne detected earlier this week rose to 26 on Thursday after the state reported 12 new cases overnight, as the number of sites exposed to the virus rose above 150.
The lockdown comes just days after authorities re-established coronavirus borders for the state capital, Melbourne, limiting the size of gatherings and making masks mandatory in restaurants, hotels and other indoor locations until June 4.
Officials have traced the latest cluster, the first in the state in more than three months, to an overseas traveler infected with a variant first found in India, although the route of transmission of the virus is not still not clear.
The anonymous man from Victoria tested negative after completing his quarantine in neighboring South Australia and flew to Melbourne this month, but tested positive six days after arriving.
Victoria suffered one of the toughest and longest lockdowns in the world last year to suppress a second wave of COVID-19 that has killed more than 800 people in the state, accounting for 90% of the total number of deaths in Australia since the start of the pandemic.
Rapid contact tracing, instant lockdowns and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia keep its COVID-19 count relatively low, with just over 30,000 cases and 910 deaths.
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