The Australian state of Victoria will go into a snap five-day lockdown from tonight in response to a growing coronavirus cluster.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced this afternoon a five-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown for all of Victoria would go into effect from 11.59pm tonight (local time).
Andrews said the lockdown was needed because some of the new cases had the UK strain, which was “hyper-infectious” and posed a huge challenge to the state.
He said it was very difficult to do effective contact tracing due to the “speed at which this UK variant moves”.
“If we wait for this theory that it might be out there, that there might be more cases, it might be too late.”
Victorians will be required to stay within 5km of their homes unless going to work or shopping for supplies. Retailers will close, with exceptions for essential businesses, and public gatherings willnot be permitted. Schools and places of worship will close.
Andrews said health officials now predict that there are further undetected cases in the community.
“It is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months,” he said.
It will be the state’s third lockdown since the start of the pandemic.
It is understood that state government advisers met overnight to draw up a framework for another lockdown as a Covid cluster linked to Melbourne’s Holiday Inn MIQ facility grew overnight to 13 cases.
The state’s Cabinet met for an emergency meeting at 11.45am — where it was understood a snap five-day lockdown was on the table.
At the same time, federal senators who are based in Melbourne were heading to Canberra.
Authorities are not only concerned about a growing cluster linked to a Holiday Inn, which is being used as an MIQ facility, but also about virus fragments detected in wastewater across Melbourne.
A source close to Emergency Management Victoria told the Herald Sun earlier today authorities feared they had lost control of the outbreak — describing scenes of “pandemonium” at the agency.
They told the newspaper there were deep concerns at the failure of contact tracers to match information they had been given by confirmed cases and their close contacts with what the results of sewage testing were showing about the virus’s spread.
Officials are working with the theory that all of the cases linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak are UK strain cases — meaning it could spread a lot more quickly than the strain that took hold of Victoria last year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 3AW earlier today the Victorian government was looking at all options.
The Prime Minister said that the traumatising impact of the lockdowns on Victorians was very “real” and he understood why it was upsetting news that the option was on the table.
But he suggested a short, sharp lockdown had worked in the past interstate to give contact tracers a head start.
“The short, sharp proportionate response that we saw in other states proved to be quite effective. We saw that work in Brisbane. It worked in NSW.”
Clinical epidemiologist, Professor Nancy Baxter, appeared to back the idea of another lockdown in the city this morning — after two more people linked to the Holiday Inn coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne tested positive for coronavirus overnight and more exposure sites were listed.
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