City is locked down to try to contain COVID

Sarah Luke

Police step up operation

VICTORIA’S metropolitan areas were put back into lockdown overnight on Wednesday.

Stage three restrictions were reintroduced across Melbourne for six weeks, in an attempt to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 through its suburbs.

This means across metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, there are only four reasons for people to leave their homes again: shopping for food and essential items; care and caregiving; daily exercise; and for work and study, if they can’t do it from home.

In regional Victoria, stage three restrictions have not been implemented.

Melburnians cannot exercise or undertake recreational activities in regional Victoria, and those in the regions should only travel into restricted areas to see people if they need to.

Regional Victorians can travel through the metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, but should plan trips so that they don’t need to stop in affected areas unless it is for one of the three reasons.

While the Chief Health Officer directed people to stay at their principal place of residence, and specifically “not use a holiday home”, many Melburnians decided to get ahead of the implementation of that rule on Wednesday.

Metropolitan media reported a mass exodus of Melburnians from the lock down area, as they made a last minute rush to dodge the stage three restrictions. This was particularly notable at Phillip Island, where traffic was banked up similar to Christmas holidays, according to locals, who are now terrified the virus will sweep through the regional community.

As Melburnians who were ‘already on holiday’ before the lockdown began, they will not be asked to return to the restricted areas.

There will be a mandatory 14-day quarantine for NSW residents returning from Melbourne hotspots, backed by heavy penalties and fines.

The hard border between South Australia and Victoria, effective from midnight Wednesday, means any Victorian residents attempting to cross will be turned away unless they are essential travellers.

From noon Friday, visitors from Victoria can no longer access or be able to quarantine in Queensland, with exemptions for essential specialist workers, as well as health, legal or compassionate grounds.

Queenslanders are being strongly advised not to travel to Victoria, and if they do, will be quarantined in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense when they return.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the continuing uncertainty meant many people wanted to “pretend this is over.”

“In the last 36 hours we lost two more Victorian lives to this deadly virus.

“We don’t yet know their names, their stories or the circumstances in which they died.

“All we do know is that – except for the company and compassion of the medical staff who cared for them – they would have died alone.

“No family. No friends. No holding hands. No goodbyes. Denied the last quiet moments that we all hope for.

“That’s how dangerous and infectious this disease is.

“Thankfully, it’s a fate that most Victorian families have not been asked to endure.

“And I think, for some, that’s led to a creeping complacency.

“But although today it’s someone else – tomorrow it could be you, or me.

“I know a lot of people aren’t scared because this feels like something happening to other people in other parts of the world.

“But you should be scared of this. I’m scared of this. We all should be.”

On Monday, Victoria reached the most diagnosed cases it had recorded in a single day (127), and then surpassed it on Tuesday (191).

“It’s clear we are on the cusp of our second wave – and we cannot let this virus cut through our communities,” the Premier said.

“This stay at home direction will apply to your principal place of residence – that means no escaping to holiday homes.

“Unless you’re a local, that means no fishing trips at Lakes Entrance.

“No four-hour hikes in the Grampians.

“For people who live in regional Victoria, where case numbers remain low, current restrictions will remain the same for now.

“By putting a ring around metropolitan Melbourne, we’re essentially putting in place a perimeter to protect regional Victorians.

“For every restriction that you break and all the health advice that you ignore – the consequence may be someone’s life.”

At the time the Gippsland Times went to print, there were 860 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.

People who want to report a suspected breach of public health restrictions, such as isolation, a mass gathering or business breaches, should phone the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or report online.