LOCAL people are now masked up and are preparing to return to stage three lockdown, after Victoria entered a State of Disaster Sunday evening.
The disaster declaration will give police additional powers to make sure people are complying with public health directions, and comes as authorities become increasingly worried about a surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne and the number of hospitalisations and deaths.
From 11.59pm Wednesday, regional Victoria will return to stage three 'stay at home' restrictions.
People will have only be four reasons to be out: shopping for food and essential items; care and caregiving; daily exercise, and work and study - if it can't be done from home.
Restaurants and cafés will only be able to offer delivery and takeaway. Beauty and personal services will need to close, along with entertainment and cultural venues.
Community sport will cease and regional schools will return to remote and flexible learning - across all year levels and across the state. The only exception will be for specialist schools.
Onsite supervision will again be made available for students who need it, including children whose parents are permitted essential workers and vulnerable children who can't learn from home.
Tuesday will be a student-free day at schools.
Face coverings are now compulsory across regional Victoria for people leaving home.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the changes would be in place for at least six weeks.
He reiterated the importance of protecting regional communities which have low case numbers, and in some areas, no case numbers.
"From the outset of this second surge, our aim has been to protect regional communities," he said.
"By putting a ring around the city, we want to protect the entirety of our state.
"For the most part, it's worked.
"But as we know, this virus doesn't discriminate, and its only goal is to spread.
"Based on the current numbers, it's clear there is a real and growing threat in some regional communities.
"The thought of this virus getting into regional aged care - and wiping out entire generations within our regional communities - is something that keeps me up at night.
"We cannot let this virus tear through regional aged care in the way it has with private sector aged care in Melbourne.
"We cannot let it mean more Victorians in hospital beds - more Victorians hooked up to machines just to breathe.
"And more Victorians - more grandparents, parents, sons, daughters, partners and loved ones - choked to death by an invisible enemy.
"I don't think it's something any of us are willing to accept.
"As always, we'll keep reviewing and realigning the restrictions in line with the advice of our health experts - and if we can change things earlier, we will," he said.
"I know there'll also be questions about why restrictions are needed in some communities that have no cases.
"But as we've learned over the course of things, just because you have no cases today - doesn't mean you won't tomorrow."