Australia’s second-largest state has declared a disaster and imposed sweeping new restrictions to contain rising coronavirus infections.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced overnight that residents in the state capital of Melbourne will be banned from leaving their homes between 8pm and 5am, except for work and medical care.
On top of the night-time curfew, residents will not be allowed to travel more than five kilometres (3.1 miles) from their home, exercise is limited to one hour per day, and only one person per household at a time is allowed to shop for essentials.
The ramped-up restrictions come into effect on Sunday at 6pm local time (9am BST) and affect nearly five million residents.
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Declaring a ‘state of disaster’, Mr Andrews said the state faced an ‘unacceptably high’ number of cases, with 671 new infections and seven deaths reported in the past day.
He said other lockdown measures imposed on Victorians were not working fast enough and raised concerns that the health system could become overwhelmed.
‘We must do more. We must go harder. It’s the only way we’ll get to the other side of this,’ Mr Andrews added.
The new restrictions will be in place until September 13.
Ahead of the announcement, many Victorians were pictured rushing to the shops, with large queues of customers seen waiting outside major supermarkets to stock up on supplies.
After Australia’s initial success in suppressing the virus, the Victorian cluster threatens to spread across the entire country, with smaller outbreaks recorded in Sydney.
Australia has recorded about 17,000 infections and 200 deaths – Victoria accounts for more than half the total death toll.
The outbreak is traced back to breaches in the state’s hotel quarantine system. Unlike other Australian states which had the military or police keeping watch on overseas arrivals, Victoria employed a private security firm.
A state of disaster declaration gives police more power to enforce lockdown restrictions.
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