Victoria has been plunged into lockdown following further diagnoses of the highly contagious UK strain of COVID-19.
Premier Daniel Andrews has said the state-wide lockdown is necessary to get on top of transmissions and ensure Victorians avoid a third-wave.
The premier said without the five day “circuit breaker” which he hopes will stave off new infections, the state could face the prospect of being locked down until a vaccination was rolled out.
Stay home and wear a mask when out
Masks will now be mandatory both in and outdoors and Victorians will only be able to leave their house for one of the following four reasons: to exercise, to shop for essentials, to work (essential work only) or to seek medical care or provide care. People will be limited to shop and exercise within 5kms from their home.
The premier has advised if you can work from home you should do so. Schools and childcare centres will remain open for vulnerable children or the children of those who are undertaking essential work during the lockdown period.
“I am confident that this short, sharp circuit breaker will be effective,” said Andrews.
“We will be able to smother this. We will be able to prevent it getting away from us. I want to be here on Wednesday next week announcing that these restrictions are coming off, but I can’t do it on my own. I need every single Victorian to work with me, and with our team so that we can run this to ground and we can see this strategy work.”
UK strain more infectious
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the UK variant of the virus is significantly more infectious than any other strain and that although the protocol of test, trace and isolate is working, the speed of infection means a hard lockdown is necessary.
”We are interviewing people immediately on notification of their positive result. We are quarantining their close contacts, we are identifying those secondary close contacts, but there are individuals who are already infectious at the time that we are identifying those cases.
“Right now we need to be in a position where we can get entirely ahead of this, and not have a situation where the rate of increase with the B117 variant becomes exponential and stricter measures might be required for a longer period of time,” Sutton said.
Third-wave would be catastrophic
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said lockdown is essential to protect our most vulnerable members of the community.
“No-one is going to risk the sort of things that we saw in the private residential aged care sector in 2020,” said Foley.
As such the minister said that visits to private residential aged care or state residential aged care will be banned during the lockdown. Restrictions will also be placed in visits to public and private hospitals.
Foley acknowledged it is a challenging time for Victorians but said the similar responses to outbreaks of the UK strain had worked for WA and QLD so he is hopeful the virus will be contained.
“This is about getting ahead of the problem. We’re going to get ahead of this and we’re going to squash it.
“And we will do that with all Victorians’ support whilst we look after each other and look after, particularly, our most vulnerable Victorians.”
Close the chains of transmission
In an effort to inhibit further transmissions the Premier encouraged anyone planning activities for this evening to curtail them and stay home instead. he also justified the statewide lockdown saying he did not want to risk the virus getting into regional Victoria.
“It is, therefore, appropriate to have the same rules apply across the state… My message to regional Victoria is we have no evidence of any cases [in regional VIC] but we want to keep it that way.”
Summary of what's changing from 11:59pm tonight: pic.twitter.com/NZ6UROJTbi
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) February 12, 2021