MELBOURNE residents must endure another fortnight of hard lockdown after Australian officials said the rate of new Covid-19 cases has not gone down enough to lift the restrictions.
Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday that the strict measures in Australia’s second biggest city under a stage four lockdown in place since August 2 will not now end on September 13, but will continue until September 28.
“We cannot open up at this time. If we were to we would lose control very quickly,” Andrews insisted at a press briefing.
“If we open up too fast then we have a very high likelihood that we are not really opening up at all: we are just beginning a third wave,” he warned.
“And we will be back in and out of restrictions, coming in and out of lockdown, before the end of the year.”
The state premier also made it clear that the restrictions will not all be lifted at once.
“There is only one option and that is to do this in a series of steady and safe steps. You can’t run out of lockdown”, he stressed, adding that his aim was to have a Christmas which is “as close to normal as possible.”
For now Melbourne’s inhabitants are living with an overnight curfew from 8pm to 5am, restrictions on visitors to people’s homes and a ban on travelling further than five kilometres.
From September 13 there will be some easing of the strictest regulations, with curfew not stating until 9pm. In addition people will be allowed outdoors for up to two hours instead of one, and those living alone will be allowed to have a visitor.
If the average number of people in testing positive for the virus over 14 days gets to between 30 and 50 by September 28 then the city will go into stage three restrictions.
This would mean outdoor gatherings of up to five would be allowed. There would also be a gradual return to the classrooms for some ages and more than 100,000 workers will be allowed back to their jobs on construction sites and manufacturing plants warehouses and childcare centres.
Victoria has been the hardest-hit state in Australia by a second wave of Covid-19. It accounts for some 75 per cent of the country’s more than 26,000 cases and for 90 per cent of its 753 deaths.
There has however been a significant drop in the number of people testing positive for the virus since the peak on August 5, when there were 725 new cases: Sunday’s figure for the previous