Lockdown again

There will be only five reasons to leave the home, including shopping for essential items.

THE entire state will be back in lockdown after Acting Premier James Merlino this morning announced Victoria would begin a seven-day “circuit breaker” from midnight tonight, amid concerns by health experts about how fast the B1.617.1 variant is moving.

There are five reasons to leave home – to gather food and supplies; authorised work; care and caregiving; exercise (for up to two hours with one other person); and to get vaccinated.

Exercise and shopping is limited to five kilometres from home, and face masks must be worn inside and outdoors, except at home.

Shopping is also limited to one person per day, per household.

Private and public gatherings are not be permitted, although visiting an intimate partner can continue, and single person bubbles will be allowed.

The announcement came as active case numbers climbed to 34 as of this morning.

Mr Merlino said public health experts’ prime concern was how fast the B1.617.1 variant was moving, prompting moves to extend eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination.

From tomorrow and dependent upon supply, all Victorians over the age of 40 are eligible for either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines.

“Here in Victoria … we’re seeing not only how quick [the B1.617.1 variant] is – but how contagious it is too,” Mr Merlino said.

“Our contract tracers are identifying and locking down first ring, second ring and third ring contacts within 24 hours. That’s faster than ever.

“And yet this variant is still moving faster. “And in just 24 hours, the number of cases has doubled.

“It means that although these cases are all connected, this variant of the virus is making people more infectious, more quickly.

“We’ve seen other countries come up against these variants and lose. Badly.

“Places like Taiwan that have gone from no or very low cases to skyrocketing numbers in the space of just days and weeks – and now are struggling to get it under control.

“We also know our nation’s vaccine rollout has been slower than we’d hoped.

“And if more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a different set of circumstances. Sadly, we’re not.

“If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, if we hesitate too much, this thing will get away from us. And lives will be at risk.”

Childcare and kindergartens remain open, but schools must close other than for children of authorised workers and vulnerable students.

Shops like supermarkets, food stores, bottle shops, banks, petrol stations and pharmacies also remain open.

Cafés and restaurants are only able to offer take-away only.

Gyms, hairdressers, community facilities and entertainment venues are closed. Non-essential retail can only open for click and collect.

Hotels and accommodation can only stay open to support guests already staying onsite. No new bookings can be made – unless it’s for one a permitted purpose, like authorised work.

Advice on what is open, and what isn’t, is available online – as is the full list of authorised workers and workplaces.

Mr Merlino reiterated vaccination was “the only way we’ll ever get back to normal”.

“Without full vaccination, this virus will just keep mutating – and just keep making its way back in,” he said.

Victorians aged 40 to 49 years will be able to access to the Pfizer vaccine at state run vaccination sites.

People aged 40 to 49 years receiving the Pfizer vaccine must book an appointment by phoning the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. This is essential as not all vaccination centres will have the Pfizer vaccine available.

Victorians aged 50 years and over will continue to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, either through a state-run vaccination centre or a participating GP clinic.

While many vaccination centres are accepting walk-in appointments for people aged 50 years and over, bookings via the 1800 675 398 hotline are preferred.

For more information on Victoria’s vaccination centres, including locations and opening hours, visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccination-centres.

For more information on the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccination program, visit health.vic.gov.au.