Spurt in infections forces Australia to lock down 300,000 in Melbourne

Spurt in COVID-19 cases forces Australia to lock down 300,000 in Melbourne suburbs

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Authorities in Australia will lock down around 300,000 people in suburbs north of Melbourne for a month from late on Wednesday. The decision was taken to contain the risk of infection after two weeks of double-digit rises in new coronavirus cases.

Although Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 7,830 cases and 104 deaths, the recent surge has stoked fears of a second wave.

From midnight, more than 30 suburbs will return to stage three restrictions, the third-strictest level in curbs. That means residents will be confined to home except for grocery shopping, health appointments, work or caregiving, and exercise.

The restrictions will be accompanied by a testing spree that authorities hope will extend to half the population, and for which borders will be monitored, authorities said. The measures come as restrictions ease across the rest of Victoria, with restaurants, gyms and cinemas reopening in recent weeks.

Victoria recorded 73 fresh cases on Tuesday from 20,682 tests, following an increase of 75 cases on Monday. State premier Daniel Andrews warned on Wednesday that the return of broader restrictions was a possibility.

“If we all stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission … across metropolitan Melbourne,” Andrews said at a briefing. “Ultimately if I didn’t shut down those postcodes I’d be shutting down all postcodes. We want to avoid that.”

Victoria’s spike in cases resulted from staff at hotels housing returned travellers for which quarantine protocols were not strictly followed. Victorian state authorities have announced a probe.

South Australia, the country’s fifth most populous state, has had just three new cases in the past month. However, the spike in cases forced it to cancel its scheduled reopening.

New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, has stopped short of closing its borders to all Victorians. Those holidaying from hotspot areas – not permitted under NSW rules – can be fined A$11,000 (£6,135.71) or jailed if they are detected, state authorities said.

(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field

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