A coronavirus lockdown in Australia’s second largest city Melbourne will be extended for another seven days, officials have announced as they attempt to stamp out a cluster of cases that emerged in Melbourne last month.
“We have 60 cases right now and more than 350 exposure sites and a type of virus that is faster and more contagious than ever before,” James Merlino, the acting head of state for Victoria, said on Wednesday.
“Our teams are working harder than ever to test, trace and isolate every case,” he told a news conference.
“If we let this thing do its job, it will explode. We have to get this off the ground, because if we don’t do it, people will die.”
With the extension of the lockdown, household gatherings will be limited to five guests, while only 30 people will be allowed in public meetings, and face masks will be mandatory in indoor settings. Residents will be allowed to leave home to buy groceries, work and study, exercise, meet care responsibilities and receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Older students in Melbourne will be allowed to return to face-to-face classes, and their range of travel will be increased from five kilometers (3.1 mi) to 10 km (6.2 mi).
‘Some things won’t change’
Meanwhile, beyond the Greater Melbourne area, residents will be able to travel within non-metropolitan parts of the state and businesses will be allowed to reopen from midnight on Thursday (14:00 GMT on Wednesday), according to The Sydney Morning According to the Herald newspaper.
Schools there will be able to resume in-person learning at all levels.
No cases of community transmission have been reported in regional Victoria this week, the state said, easing some restrictions.
Smaller events such as weddings are also allowed as long as they are limited to 10 people per event, while religious ceremonies are limited to 50 people.
“Some things won’t change,” Merlino was quoted as saying. “The people coming home are still not well. And we still need masks to be worn inside”.
The pace of the new edition in Melbourne is showing that we can never let our guard down.
We wish Victoria nothing but the best.
— Anastasia Palaszuk (@AnnastaciaMP) 2 June 2021
“I know this is not the news that everyone wants to hear from Melbourne today. But given the number of cases we have, the Chief Health Officer had no choice but to advise the government, and the government I had no choice but to accept that advice.”
In a social media post, Queensland’s head of state, Annastasia Palaszuk, said: “The pace of the new edition in Melbourne is showing that we can never let our guard down.”
Victoria’s capital Melbourne reimposed COVID-19 restrictions last May 25, nearly three months after the state reported zero cases.
Victoria was the hardest-hit state during the second wave of the coronavirus last year, with nearly 70 per cent of the total cases and 90 per cent of deaths in Australia from care homes for the elderly.
The state brought the outbreak under control only after one of the world’s longest and toughest lockdowns.
Speedy tracing systems, movement curbs and social distancing have helped Australia contain the COVID-19 outbreak, which has recorded 30,118 cases and 910 deaths since the pandemic began.
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