MELBOURNE: More than five million residents of Melbourne will be locked down for six weeks after coronavirus cases surged in Australia’s second-biggest city.
State Premier Daniel Andrews said the lockdown would begin at midnight on Wednesday and last at least six weeks. The south-eastern city detected 191 new cases in 24 hours.
Andrews said there were now many incidents of the virus to trace and track and warned residents that they cannot pretend the coronavirus crisis is over.
“These are unsustainably high numbers,” he said. “No-one wanted to be in this position. I know there will be enormous amounts of damage that will be done because of this. It will be very challenging.”
Most school students will return to remote learning while restaurants and cafes will be limited to serving takeaway food. “There is simply no alternative other than thousands and thousands of cases and potentially more,” he told reporters.
READ MORE: Australia seals state border as coronavirus outbreak worsens
Although the lockdown covers the Melbourne area, the entire state of Victoria will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country as state borders are closed.
Police and the military are patrolling dozens of border crossings and using drones and other aircraft to surveil the vast frontier with other states.
Health officials last week effectively shut off some 300,000 Melbourne residents to the rest of the city until the end of July, but that has now been extended beyond their neighbourhoods.
Roughly 3,000 people were also locked in their homes on Saturday in Australia’s strictest COVID-19 response to date after a cluster emerged in a high-rise public housing estate.
Australia has recorded almost 9,000 cases of COVID-19 and 106 deaths from the virus. Almost all new daily cases are being detected in Melbourne, while all other regions are enjoying relaxed restrictions after largely curbing the virus spread.