Third phase of lockdown to begin in Melbourne, Australia as COVID-19 cases surge

Police officers are seen in Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 12, 2021, after the state of Victoria was placed under a snap five-day lockdown. ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/REUTERS

Melbourne, the second-largest city in Australia, will begin its third lockdown on Friday due to a rapidly spreading hotel quarantine-centered COVID-19 cluster.

In order to stop the virus from spreading from the state capital, the five-day lockdown will be imposed across Victoria state, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The tennis tournament at the Australian Open will be permitted to proceed, but without spectators, he said.

Melbourne Airport would only be permitted to land international flights that were already in the air when the lockout was declared. There will be closed schools and several industries. Except for exercise and for important purposes, people are ordered to remain at home.

A population of 6.5 million from 11:59 p.m. will be shut down. A contagious British version of the virus first identified at a Melbourne Airport hotel that infected 13 people, until the same time on Wednesday.

In order to prevent a new boom in Melbourne, Andrews said the rate of spread needed drastic action.

"It changed the game. This thing isn't the virus of 2020. It's very distinct. It's a whole lot easier. It's spreading much faster,' Andrews told reporters. This fast, sharp circuit breaker will be successful, I am sure. We're going to be able to smother it.'

After a fresh outbreak of infections, Melbourne emerged from a 111-day lockout in October that peaked at 725 cases a day. In two Melbourne hotels where foreign travelers were forced to quarantine for 14 days, it was primarily blamed on lax infection management processes.

At the time, owing to low case numbers after an initial national lockout, the rest of Australia was easing restrictions.

Border restrictions on travelers from Melbourne have been imposed by certain Australian governments. On Friday, federal lawmakers hurried to get to the national capital of Canberra to attend Parliament on Monday for fear that their entry would be prohibited by the Australian Capital Territory government.

In Melbourne, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister of Health Greg Hunt were to visit the plant of the biotechnology company CSL Ltd. where a local version of the AstraZeneca vaccine is being developed.

Before the lockdown was declared, Morrison said that he was sure the cluster could be controlled by the state government.

"If I weren't confident, I wouldn't be here," Morrison told reporters. "I just flew down today from Sydney. I'm here for that reason. Business as usual for me here today in Melbourne."

Publish : 2021-02-12 11:53:00

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