Australia’s Victoria enters 7-day lockdown amid spike in Covid-19 Indian variant
Melbourne, the Australian city that’s already endured one of the world’s longest and most arduous lockdowns, is heading back into enforced isolation due to another Covid-19 outbreak.
The city of 5 million people, along with all other areas of Victoria state, will go into lockdown from midnight for seven days, the state’s Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday. The number of cases within the community spread had doubled in the past day to 26, he said.
“Our public health experts’ primary concern is how fast this variant is moving,” Merlino said, describing the strain of the virus as highly infectious. “We’ve seen overseas how difficult that movement can be to control.”
Genome sequencing has confirmed the cases are from the variant that was first detected in India, and are linked to a leak from a hotel used for quarantine in South Australia state earlier this month. Since then, the virus has spread to neighboring Victoria state, with infected people visiting dozens of venues including football stadiums, a university and a regional city.
Some states have already closed their borders to Melbourne residents, which is expected to place further pressure on the tourism and travel industries.
The cluster comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is under increasing pressure to speed up the pace of the vaccine rollout, with about 3.7 million people in the nation of 26 million so far receiving their first jab.
The Labor opposition has also criticized Morrison’s strategy of keeping its hotel quarantine system in place, instead of building purpose-built quarantine hubs.
Restrictions placed on people in Victoria, which is the nation’s second most populous state, include staying within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of their homes for shopping and exercise, mandatory mask-wearing in public, and no visitors in homes apart from intimate partners.
Restaurants, pubs and cafes will be able to provide only takeaway goods; otherwise, retail businesses, entertainment and gyms will be closed. Professional sporting events will proceed without crowds.
Gains made earlier Thursday in the nation’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index were pared after the lockdown was announced.