Melbourne returns to full lockdown as cases surge

Melbourne returns to full lockdown as cases surge
Health workers at pop-up hospital in Melbourne - 7 JulyImage copyright EPA
Image caption Melbourne has seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent days

Five million residents of the Australian city of Melbourne have been told to stay at home for six weeks, amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews announced the lockdown after the state saw 191 new infections, its highest daily number since the pandemic began.

The state's borders with its neighbours, New South Wales and South Australia, will close within hours.

Australia has recorded almost 9,000 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.

But almost all new cases have been in Victoria.

People will be restricted to their homes and will only be able to leave for essential reasons, such as for work and for exercise.

Schools will largely return to distance learning and restaurants will, once again, only be permitted to serve takeaway food.

The measures will come into force from Wednesday.

"We are on the cusp of something very, very bad if we don't take these steps," Mr Andrews said.

"I think a sense of complacency has crept into us as we let our frustrations get the better of us."

The state had been easing restrictions before the surge in the past fortnight.

It now has hundreds of active cases, while other Australian states and territories continue to report only small numbers of new infections.

Taxing times return for Australia's second city

By Frances Mao, BBC News, Sydney

Two weeks ago, as the cases started to creep up again, some of the fear and unease returned for residents in Melbourne.

Out of caution, people began cancelling interstate trips. Better to wait it out, said my friends who were due to visit.

Surely it wouldn't get so bad again, right? Australia as a whole had been out of lockdown for over a month.

We were so close to eradication - everyone could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Desperate to maintain that status, officials were also responding quickly to the outbreaks: locking down suburbs, sending in the military, boosting testing.

But for the first time in Australia, community transmission appears to have gained a hold. The case numbers exploded past 100 at the weekend. Then on Tuesday, nearly 200 new cases were confirmed.

The announcement didn't come until afternoon but by then most Melbourne residents knew. Sliding back into lockdown - after having tasted freedom for a few weeks - is a cruel blow.

Friends have been scrambling to do their last family visits and shopping trips.

A second lockdown, arguably, is even more taxing - mentally and financially.

What makes it worse is the city will have to bear it alone. The rest of the country has largely eradicated or slowed the virus.

Source :
www.bbc.co.uk