Victoria will enter a snap lockdown from midnight on Thursday in a bid to stop the spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced.
The lockdown will last for five days and residents will only have five reasons to leave home, including shopping for essential items, outdoor exercise, essential work or study where it cannot be done from home, compassionate or medical care, and travelling to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
One person per household may leave the house for essential shopping.
Residents will be restricted to travelling within a five-kilometre radius of their home.
Premier Andrews said Victoria’s contact tracers and public health experts were moving “faster than they ever have”, but said they’re “just keeping pace with this virus, not getting in front of it”.
“That is why, with a heavy heart … the Chief Health Officer and public health team have recommended to me and my colleagues that we lock down Victoria from 11:59pm tonight until 11:59pm next Tuesday night.”
This will be the state’s fifth lockdown since the start of the pandemic and the third in 2021.
Premier Andrews said it would be identical to the most recent lockdown from a few weeks ago. “If you were authorised to work then, you will be authorised to work now. If you were closed then, you will be closed now,” he said.
Businesses who received support during the last lockdown will likely receive the same support over this period, he said.
“In terms of business support, I’ll have more to say as early as tomorrow and we will look to fast track payments principally to those who received payments last time.
“We expect the Commonwealth government will step up and help those people who need the help.”
“We would prefer this had not come to our state. We’d prefer we didn’t have to deal with these issues but this is so infectious. This is such a challenge that we must do this. 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.
“I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now only to find ourselves in a five-week or a five-month lockdown.”
Premier Andrews said he is “hopeful” the lockdown will not be extended beyond five days, but acknowledged it was a possibility.
“It may be longer because it depends on what every Victorian does,” he said. “Millions of Victorians making dozens and dozens of choices every day means there are lots of variable points here.”
Asked whether the imposition of the lockdown on regional Victoria was “fair”, he said: “Look, nothing about this virus is fair. Nothing about the fact that this virus has travelled from Sydney is fair. That’s just the reality we face.
“I apologise to all Victorians that this is necessary. But part of my job is not just making popular and easy decisions, it’s doing what must be done and at this stage a state-wide lockdown is what’s put to me as essential by the public health experts.”
Victoria records two additional COVID-19 cases
Premier Andrews said the state has recorded two additional cases since a previous update earlier on Thursday.
The two new cases, one a child and the other adult, appear to be transmissions between strangers who contracted the virus sitting apart from each other during the AFL match between Carlton and Geelong at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
“That is the information we have at this point in time,” Jeroen Weimar said. “Obviously we are working with all three new cases today identified at the MCG. They’ve got a number of exposure sites and some of those exposure sites are acting there already and we will continue that work over the course of the evening and into the night.”
Mr Weimar said around 20,000 coronavirus tests have already been received today.
Andrews anticipates ‘agreement’ with PM over Commonwealth payments
Earlier on Thursday, Scott Morrison announced he will propose a more “streamlined” set of financial supports for states and territories affected by the COVID-19 pandemic when National Cabinet meets on Friday.
Under Mr Morrison’s proposal, support payments of either $375 or $600 a week – depending on work hours lost – would start from the second week of a lockdown but be paid in arrears, and the liquid assets test would be immediately waived.
Premier Andrews said he has been “texting all day” with Mr Morrison and “thinks we can come to an agreement” in terms of how the payments would apply to the five-day lockdown.
“Whether it’s [paying] five-sevenths of the $600 and the $375, which I would have thought would be a pretty fair thing, if it is a five-day lockdown instead of a seven-day lockdown,” he said.
“I’m not going to say, right we’re locking down for seven days – two full days extra – which is more than the health advice tells me I need to, in order to qualify for a Commonwealth program when all they ever tell us is that every dollar they spend is based on need.
“Need starts [from] hour one of day one of a lockdown.”
Tasmania closes border with Victoria
Tasmania is closing its border with Victoria in response to the emerging coronavirus outbreak.
“This decision has been made with the intention [of] ensuring the protection of Tasmania of the risk posed by COVID, particularly the Delta strain,” Deputy Director of Public Health, Scott McKeown, told reporters.
Anyone who has been in Victoria since 8 July won’t be allowed into Tasmania unless they receive express permission from the deputy state controller as an essential traveller.
Dr McKeown said the high-risk declaration would be reviewed daily.
– With AAP.