Victoria is headed into a five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews bringing back some of the state’s strictest COVID-19 measures.
Non-essential retail businesses, hairdressers and real estate businesses will have to close, and hospitality businesses must move to takeaway-only service.
The new measures will come into effect from 11.59pm on Friday, February 12, and remain in place until at least 11.59pm on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. They will apply to both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
The announcement comes after Victoria recorded five new community transmitted cases of COVID-19 within the past 24 hours, all connected to the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel outbreak, which now includes 13 people.
Under the measures, Victorians may only leave their homes for one of four reasons:
- Shopping for necessary goods and services;
- Caregiving or compassionate reasons;
- For work or education that cannot be completed from home; or
- For exercise, for up to two hours per day.
Employees must work from home, if possible.
The 5km travel limit from homes has been reintroduced, and masks must be worn at all times, outside of the home.
Schools will be closed again, except for vulnerable children or the children of essential workers. Early childcare centres will remain open.
Elsewhere, entertainment businesses, swimming pools and a range of other businesses will have to change their operations. More information is expected on this later today.
Religious ceremonies are not permitted, and weddings are not permitted unless on compassionate grounds. Funerals are limited to 10 people.
In a press conference, Andrews said the restrictions are necessary because of the speed at which the UK-variant of the virus spreads.
By the time cases are being identified, they have already infected their own close contacts, he suggested, making contact tracing particularly difficult, he added.
“We must assume there are further cases in the community than we have results for,” he said. If we wait for the theory to be proven correct, “it will be too late”.
The Victorian government tightened rules around face masks last week, mandating usage in all indoor public places, except while eating or drinking.
Today’s news comes as New South Wales eases restrictions, after the state reached 26 days with no community-transmitted COVID-19 cases.
In NSW, hospitality businesses are able to double capacity to two people per square metre, and masks are now only mandatory on public transport and in taxis and rideshare vehicles.