Victoria will enter a five-day statewide lockdown in a bid to contain a growing outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
The lockdown will be Melbourne’s fifth since the start of the pandemic and the third in 2021.
From 11.59pm on Thursday, millions of residents will only be able to leave home for five reasons – to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise, work or study if they are unable to from home and to get vaccinated.
The same rules that applied during last month’s lockdown will be reimposed, including a 5km travel limit for exercise and shopping and compulsory masks indoors and outdoors.
All non-essential retail will close but essential stores like supermarkets, bottle shops and pharmacies will remain open, with shopping limited to one person per day, per household.
The lockdown is set to end at 11.59pm next Tuesday, though restrictions in regional Victoria could be lifted earlier if it is safe to do so.
The announcement was made after two clusters grew by twelve cases in just 24 hours after being linked to a family in Hume who visited Coles Craigieburn, and the Sydney removalists who forced an apartment building into lockdown.
Late on Wednesday night, mandatory indoor mask rules were brought back after they were lifted just six days ago, but on Thursday afternoon, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed this wasn’t enough, with two additional cases recorded.
There are now 18 community COVID-19 cases associated with two separate outbreaks, both of which originated in NSW.
Under the lockdown, home gatherings are also banned and hospitality venues are limited to takeaway only.
“You only get one chance to go hard and go fast. If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier,” the premier told reporters.
“I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now, only to find ourselves in a five-week or a five-month lockdown.
‘You only get one chance to go hard and go fast.’
“That is why we are making this very difficult decision and why I know Victorians will, despite the pain and difficulty of this, know and understand there is no option.”
Andrews said he appreciated it would be “frustrating” for those living in regional committees that don’t have cases or exposure sites and said authorities would “release” those areas before next Tuesday “if it is safe to do so”.
New mask rules
Late on Wednesday night, the acting chief health officer released a statement saying masks would become mandatory again inside.
These mask rules had been lifted just six days ago, but returned from 11.59pm Wednesday.
Face masks are again mandatory everywhere indoors, including workplaces and secondary schools, except when at home.
Under the lockdown, face masks must also be worn outdoors at all times.
– with AAP