Coronavirus hot spots in Melbourne's will be put into lockdown in an effort to contain an outbreak of the deadly disease from reaching other parts of the state including regional Victoria.
While Ballarat remains relatively Covid free, with no new cases since May, this week tourism, and hospitality operators as well as shire leaders voiced concern about the risks associated with the influx of Melbourne visitors, as the numbers of confirmed cases continues to soar in certain suburban hotspots.
The state government's latest step to attempt to lockdown a raft of Melbourne suburbs mainly in the north and west, will effectively limit all activity and permit only the four basic reasons for leaving home in those areas.
Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said the radical steps were a reflection of the gravity of the rapid doubling of the cases in Melbourne and the need to act quickly to stop the spread.
But Professor Sutton emphasised adherence to the rules, not only in the lockdown suburbs but for people across the state, was critical to keep coronavirus contained and out of the regions.
"I just have to emphasise that there is no 'Plan B 'here, we have to do the things that will change the transmission because today it will be the priority suburbs but if they're not turned around it will be metro Melbourne, and we owe it to everyone in Victoria not to have this spill across all suburbs, not to spill into rural and regional Victoria that has no community transmission, that is almost universally free of active cases, so we have to do the right thing," Professor Sutton said.
The state government have also moved to suspend international flights into Melbourne for the next fortnight to help curb the state's high infection rate.
Victoria recorded 64 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, capping a fortnight of consecutive double-digit increases.
The majority of cases have been from community transmission, prompting Premier Daniel Andrews to order a lockdown of hot spot postcodes from 11.59pm on Wednesday until at least July 29.
The postcodes are: 3038, 3064, 3047, 3060, 3012, 3032, 3055, 3042, 3021, 3046 and include the western and northern suburbs of Ascot Vale, Broadmeadows, Craigieburn and Fawkner.
Much like earlier stage three restrictions, people in these postcodes will only be able to leave their homes for four reasons: for care or caregiving, to exercise, to purchase food and other essential items, or to go to work or school.
Victoria Police is also preparing to enforce the lockdown laws, with the power to issue fines for people leaving their suburb.
The following postcodes will be sent into lockdown until at least July 29:
- 3012 - Brooklyn, Kingsville, Maidstone, Tottenham, West Footscray
- 3021 - Albanvale, Kealba, Kings Park, St Albans
- 3032 - Ascot Vale, Highpoint City, Maribyrnong, Travancore
- 3038 - Keilor Downs, Keilor Lodge, Taylors Lakes, Watergardens
- 3042 - Airport West, Keilor Park, Niddrie
- 3046 - Glenroy, Hadfield, Oak Park
- 3047 - Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana
- 3055 - Brunswick South, Brunswick West, Moonee Vale, Moreland West
- 3060 - Fawkner
- 3064 - Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickelham, Roxburgh Park, Kalkallo
"We are all in this together and this is going to be deeply disruptive for those 10 postcodes. It will be deeply painful and damaging for those businesses involved," Mr Andrews said.
"This is the public health advice. This is what we must do now. If we do not do this now, then I won't be locking down 10 postcodes, I will be locking down all postcodes."
He said police would be actively enforcing the suburban lockdown.
"They will be patrolling throughout these communities and if people are out of their home, then they will be politely asked 'why are you out of your home', and if you are out of your home for anything other than a permitted reason, then financial penalties apply," he said.
He added main transport corridors "in and out of these suburbs will be the subject of booze bus-type checks".
The businesses and facilities in these areas that have been able to recently reopen, including beauty parlours, gyms, libraries and swimming pools, will again be closed.
Cafes and restaurants will only be open for takeaway and delivery.
All affected businesses will be given a $5000 grant or a payroll tax refund.
Mr Andrews said almost 17,500 tests were performed in the hot spot areas on Monday, bringing the total number of tests in the past three days to more than 93,000.
The suburbs with the highest number of new cases in the state are Broadmeadows, Fawkner and Auburn Vale.
International flights into Victoria will also be diverted to other states and an inquiry will be held into the hotel quarantine process.
Mr Andrews said the flight diversion would last for a fortnight.
"I will have conversations with other state leaders to explain that and to thank them in advance of the extra load that they will carry," Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews also admitted there had been a breach in the hotel quarantine program, which has been a key driver behind the latest outbreaks.
He has ordered the establishment of an inquiry, led by a former judge, into the operation of the hotel quarantine program.
The inquiry will report in eight to ten weeks.
Since last Thursday there has been 93,000 tests, thousands of which are still being processed.
There have also been 37,000 doors visited to spread the message about coronavirus safety.
However, Mr Andrews also said almost 1000 people refused to be tested.
IN OTHER NEWS
"This represents the biggest and most comprehensive testing effort in Australia," Mr Andrews said.
"Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of nurses, ambos, doorknockers and community volunteers, we - quite literally - took testing to people's front doors.
"But sadly, frustratingly, it's just not been enough. Too many people are still going out when they're sick.
"Too many people are ignoring rules about physical distancing and pretending restrictions don't matter. Yet still, somehow, more than a thousand people, when asked, refused to be tested.
"It shows us that still, somehow, too many people are not taking this seriously."
You can read his statement in full here.
The Courier has removed the paywall from our stories relating to health warnings and safety of the community in regards to the coronavirus. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.