Melbourne, Australia ready for 4th lockdown as cluster grows –

Melbourne, Australia ready for 4th lockdown as cluster grows – fr

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – Australia’s second-largest city was due to enter its fourth lockdown on Thursday as concerns grew over the rapid spread of infections from a variant of the coronavirus.

The seven-day lockdown for Melbourne and the rest of Victoria state comes after a new cluster in the city rose to 26 infections, including one person who was in intensive care. Another 10,000 people have had some degree of contact with people already infected.

“Unless something changes, it will get more and more out of control,” Victoria’s interim Prime Minister James Merlino said.

The federal government has declared Melbourne a hot spot, which entitles the city to additional federal resources. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 218 military personnel were in Victoria to help with pandemic operations and more would be sent if Merlino requested.

Additional vaccine doses have also been sent to Victoria. Only 3.9 million doses of the vaccine have been administered among Australia’s population of 26 million.

Health Minister Greg Hunt described the lockdown, which begins at midnight, as “very regrettable restrictions, but necessary under the current circumstances”.

People will only be able to leave their homes to buy food and essentials, provide or receive health care, exercise, work or study if they cannot do so from home and get vaccinated. Masks will be compulsory inside and outside.

Cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer take-out and schools will close. Professional sporting events in Melbourne will continue, but without crowds.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the variant was the same one identified in India and named by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern. It was more transmissible than some variants.

The states of Western Australia and South Australia are restricting travel from Victoria and New Zealand has halted non-quarantine travel to Melbourne.

The new Melbourne cluster was discovered after an Indian traveler was infected while in quarantine at a hotel in the state of South Australia earlier this month. The traveler was not diagnosed until he returned from Adelaide to Melbourne.

The city of 5 million people became Australia’s worst hotspot last year. Infections peaked at 725 new cases in a single day in August at a time when community spread had been all but eliminated elsewhere in the country.

This lockdown lasted 111 days. A third lockdown that lasted for five days in February was triggered by a cluster of 13 cases linked to the quarantine of a hotel near Melbourne airport.

Victoria is responsible for 820 of the 910 coronavirus deaths in Australia.


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