Near empty shelves are seen at the vegetable section of a supermarket amid Covid-19 pandemic in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, August 2 2020. Picture: KLARISSA LEAHY/via REUTERS
Near empty shelves are seen at the vegetable section of a supermarket amid Covid-19 pandemic in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, August 2 2020. Picture: KLARISSA LEAHY/via REUTERS

Australia’s Victoria state tightened restrictions and declared a state of disaster after its outbreak showed no signs of abating three weeks after the capital, Melbourne, was put under lockdown.

State premier Daniel Andrews announced 671 new cases in 24 hours with seven deaths. More than 380 people were in hospital, with 38 in intensive care.

Andrews said he would declare a state of disaster from 6pm on Sunday, which would give police added powers. Metropolitan Melbourne would be under a curfew limiting movement from 8pm to 5am. The curfew prevents almost 5-million people in the city from leaving their houses except for work or to receive or give care. The sweeping new restrictions limit the time Melbourne residents may spend on outdoor exercise and essential shopping. The new restrictions will be in force for six weeks.

Andrews said it was “not acceptable” to face the state each day and report the numbers of residents who had died. “We need to come down on this hard.” He said the number of mystery cases that couldn’t be traced to a known outbreak had risen to an “unacceptably high” level that could not be continued.

Regional Victoria will be under the same restrictions that Melbourne is under from Wednesday night, Andrews said. Schools across the state will move to remote learning from Wednesday, and childcare centres in Melbourne will close to all but essential workers from Thursday.

Halfway through a six-week lockdown, the infection curve in Victoria hasn’t flattened. Yet the tighter restrictions threaten to worsen Australia’s first recession in almost 30 years. Victoria contributes about a quarter of GDP but is now isolated from the rest of the country as other states shutter their borders against a worrying spike in community transmission.

Australia’s first lockdown, which lasted roughly from March to May, was one of the most successful in the world, bringing down cases to just a handful a day nationwide. But security failures at quarantine hotels for returning travellers and poor communication of critical information to migrant communities allowed the virus to roar back in Victoria, its second most populous state.

Bloomberg 

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