The Victorian government has announced a seven-day lockdown today in a bid to curb the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak.
The state’s outbreak has now reached 26 cases, with 11 new cases recorded overnight.
One of the cases is now in intensive care in hospital and on a ventilator.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the person in ICU was “an elderly person” who was among the earlier cases in the outbreak.
“We send our best wishes to that family and we send our prayers for a quick recovery,” he said.
“My understanding is that just in recent days we’ve passed over 50 per cent of over-70-year-olds being vaccinated. Sadly this was not one of those 50 per cent.”
Acting Premier James Merlino said contact tracers had identified 10,000 primary and secondary contacts linked to the outbreak.
The circuit-breaker lockdown will be in place until 11:59pm on June 3.
Mr Merlino said there would be only five reasons people would be allowed to leave their homes:
Schools will close for the duration of the lockdown, but childcare and kindergartens will be open.
Mr Merlino, whose main portfolio has been education, said he had instructed his department to set tomorrow aside as a pupil-free day to help schools prepare for remote learning next week.
Victorian COVID-19 snapshot
Updated 3:15pm May 27, 2021
Find the latest information on the Victorian government website.
Cafes and restaurants can offer take-away only, and public and private gatherings will not be allowed.
People will have to restrict their exercise and shopping to within 5 kilometres of their homes, and masks must be worn everywhere outside of the home unless a person has an exemption.
No visitors will be allowed other than intimate partners.
A full list of the restrictions can be found on the government’s website.
Concern that virus strain could become ‘uncontrollable’
Mr Merlino said the virus was spreading at an alarming rate, prompting the lockdown.
“In the last day, we’ve seen more evidence that we’re dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern which is running faster than we have ever recorded,” he said.
“The time between catching the virus and passing it on is tighter than ever so for some of those cases I’ve mentioned … the serial interval, that is, how long it takes between the onset of symptoms in the first and secondary case, is averaging just over a day.
“So unless something drastic happens, this will becoming increasingly uncontrollable.”
Here’s what you need to know about Victoria’s COVID outbreak:
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said it was “very reassuring” that all of the newly-diagnosed cases are linked.
“We know where transmission occurred,” he said.
“There’s the workplace that’s been identified and all of the others are the related households and casual links for the City of Whittlesea outbreak.
“So that’s very reassuring, that’s great work again of contact tracing, but it’s also about people giving very detailed information about where they’ve been so that we can make those links appropriately.”
Victoria’s vaccination scheme to expand to 40- to 49-year-olds
The vaccination program will also expand in Victoria to include anyone aged 40 years and over.
The Pfizer vaccine will be offered to 40- to 49-year-olds, while those over 50 will still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine.
People reported they were unable to get through on the coronavirus hotline to book a vaccine appointment.
Callers were instead hearing a message saying the service was experiencing a delay due to a technical issue.
The Acting Premier took a swipe at the federal government, saying the lockdown may have been avoided if the Commonwealth’s vaccine rollout was better.
“If we had the Commonwealth’s vaccine program effectively rolled out, we may well not be here today talking about these circuit-breaker restrictions that we must impose to keep our community safe,” he said.
ABC News: Leanne Wong
Professor Sutton said Victoria could vaccinate 30,000 people a day, with the potential to reach 100,000 people a day when supply of the vaccine to GPs is increased.
Victoria had nearly 16,000 vaccinations at state-run centres on Tuesday, and 12,677 yesterday.
ABC News: John Graham
Mr Merlino said there were now more than 150 exposure sites, including the MCG and Docklands stadium, but many of those had not yet been listed on the heath department’s website.
Exposure sites had previously been largely spread across the city’s north and west.
Some businesses are notifying customers about being an exposure site before being listed on the health department’s website, but Professor Sutton said that was not a problem.
“It’s entirely appropriate for businesses, with the channels that they have, to contact all of their clients and customers when they know that they’re an exposure site,” he said.
Professor Sutton said there was sometimes a delay between a business being notified and appearing on the public list while authorities double-checked details.
Melbourne has been declared a Commonwealth COVID-19 hotspot which triggers extra federal support for workers and aged care.
“We have reactivated … the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre as part of the combined Commonwealth and state response,” Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, said.
Testing capacity is being ramped up across the state as the growing exposure sites affect tens of thousands of people.
There were 40,411 test results received in the 24 hours to midnight.
Another round of lockdown pain for businesses
ABC News: Jessica Longbottom
Businesses owners are already expressing concern about the impact the lockdown will have on them, especially given the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.
Cafe owner Johnny Vakalis said the lockdown comes just as his business was getting back on track after the disruptions of 2020.
“A week like this can set you back a month,” he said.
“This time last week we were full, now all of a sudden we’re empty, there’s a big gap there that has to be filled.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the seven-day lockdown and commended Victorian contact tracers for the “tremendous job” they were doing.
“The next seven days in Victoria will be very challenging and of course we are very mindful of the distress and the difficulty that this will impose upon people right across Victoria as a result of what is being described, rightly, I think, by the Acting Premier, as a circuit-breaking lockdown,” Mr Morrison said.
“And a lockdown for seven days that hopefully won’t go as long as that, as the Acting Premier indicated to me today when we spoke earlier this morning.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt described Victoria’s restrictions as “highly regrettable but necessary”.
This content was originally published here.