All of Victoria will enter a seven-day lockdown in a desperate bid to contain the state’s latest COVID outbreak.
Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the move at a media conference on Thursday morning.
The lockdown will come into effect at 11.59pm on Thursday night.
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It comes after the cluster in Melbourne grew to 26 with 12 additional cases in the last 24 hours, including one that had already been announced on Wednesday.
Officials have confirmed one person is being treated in intensive care.
“The number of cases has doubled in 24 hours. Unless something drastic happens, this will become increasingly uncontrollable,” Mr Merlino said.
“In the last day, we’ve seen more evidence we’re dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded.
“As of first thing this morning, we have identified in excess of 10,000 primary and secondary contacts who will need to either quarantine, or test and isolate, and that number will continue to grow and change.”
The number of exposure sites also continues to grow and includes the MCG, Marvel Stadium and several popular bars and nightclubs across Melbourne.
It’s the state’s fourth lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
Residents will only be allowed to leave home for five reasons – essential shopping, authorised work, care and caregiving, up to 2 hours of exercise and to get vaccinated.
Shopping and exercise will be restricted to within 5kms of a person’s home.
Cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway only while gyms and hairdressers will be forced to close entirely.
Private and public gatherings will be barred with the exception of intimate partners.
Schools will close except for the children of essential workers, however, childcare centre and kindergartens will remain open.
Funerals will be restricted to a maximum of 10 people but weddings and religious ceremonies will be banned.
The Victorian government has also announced it will extend its vaccine rollout and make the Pfizer jab available for people aged between 40 and 49 at state-run centres.
More to come.