Coronavirus: Melbourne going back into lockdown after spike in COVID-19 cases

Melbourne is being placed back into a strict lockdown and state borders shut after a spike in coronavirus cases.

Australia‘s second-largest city and the surrounding area of Mitchell Shire will be locked down from 23.59pm on Wednesday for six weeks to try to prevent a second wave, said Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews.

The decision, which affects about 4.9 million people, was made just hours before the busy border between Victoria, the state where Melbourne is located, and New South Wales is closed at midnight on Tuesday for the first time in a century.

Melbourne will be under a stricter lockdown than before, with residents confined to their homes unless undertaking essential business, shopping for food and essential items, caregiving and exercise – similar to the UK’s initial lockdown phase.

On Tuesday, Victoria had the highest number of cases in Australia since the start of the pandemic, with 191 out of 199 new cases in the southeastern state.

It was the largest one-day rise since early April and has concerned officials, despite the national number of cases so far standing at nearly 8,800 and 106 deaths – far below many other countries.

Mr Andrews said: “I know a lot of people aren’t scared because this feels like something happening to other people in other parts of the world.

“But you should be scared of this. I’m scared of this. We all should be.

“Yesterday, we reached a grim new milestone, the most cases in a single day. Today, we surpassed it.

“It’s clear we are on the cusp of our second wave – and we cannot let this virus cut through our communities.

“For every restriction that you break and all the health advice that you ignore – the consequence may be someone’s life.”

He said there should be “no escaping to holiday homes… no fishing trips at Lakes Entrance. No four-hour hikes in the Grampians”.

Restaurants and cafes have been told to return to takeaway and delivery services only while beauty salons, and entertainment and cultural venues need to close and community sport must stop.

All Year 11 and 12 students in the lockdown area will return to school, as well as special schools, but all younger children will have the school holidays extended by one week while the government gets “more advice from our health experts”.

Anyone trying to use any of the 55 roads, or several river and wilderness crossings, to pass over the state border with New South Wales without permission will face penalties, including fines of up to $11,000 (£6,000) and six months imprisonment.

Over the weekend, 30 Melbourne suburbs and nine public housing tower blocks in the city – home to 3,000 people – were placed in “hard lockdown” after more than 27 cases were recorded among 12 households in the towers on Saturday.

Police were stationed in the area as residents were told to stay at home, with rent waived for two weeks and hardship payments of $1,500 (£820) made to those unable to go to work and $750 (£410) for those without paid work.

Food and medical supplies were being delivered and every resident was being tested.

The reintroduction of restrictions in Melbourne deals a blow to Australia’s hopes for a quick economic recovery as it approaches its first recession in nearly three decades.

Australian shares gave up early gains to close flat on Tuesday, with the S&P/ASX 200 index settling down 0.03% at 6,012.9, after rising 1% in intraday trade on promise of further central bank support for the economy and strength in wider Asia.

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