Battling second virus wave, Australia puts city of Melbourne under lockdown

Henrietta Brewer
July 7, 2020

The United States has a population 13 times that of Australia but has recorded more than 1,200 times the number of deaths.

Hundreds of police officers and soldiers were also deployed to the state line between Victoria and New South Wales on Tuesday to enforce a border closing scheduled to go into effect at midnight local time.

Starting from midnight on Wednesday, all 4.9 million residents of Melbourne will be required to stay at home unless out for work, studying, shopping for food, or medical appointments for the next six weeks.

Although the lockdown covers the Melbourne metropolitan area, the entire state of Victoria will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country from overnight Tuesday, as state borders are closed.

Victoria state's Premier Daniel Andrews said the restrictions were necessary. "And pretending that it is because we all wanted to be over, is not the answer".

"We know we're on the cusp of something very, very bad if we don't get on top of this", Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday, describing the surge in case numbers as unsustainable. "A very big part of the problem". Nine public housing estates are in mandatory lockdown and two additional suburbs are under stay-at-home orders as authorities work to stop further COVID-19 outbreaks in Melbourne.

'Many residents are already faced with the challenges of language and communication barriers, are new migrants and already experience socio-economic disadvantage, ' he said. The highly porous border, with 55 roads, is travelled daily by commuters and school children, while some businesses straddle both sides.

After the south-eastern city detected 191 new cases in 24 hours, Andrews said there were now too many to trace properly, so restrictions were needed.

People crossing the border will risk fines of up to $11,000 or six months jail.

The border closure and reintroduction of restrictions in Melbourne deal a blow to Australia's hopes for quick economic recovery as it approaches its first recession in almost three decades, driven by social distancing restrictions imposed in March. Andrew HenshawCamera IconDaily coronavirus cases have spiked in Victoria. Officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

Kevin Mack, the mayor of Albury, a border town on the NSW side, said with an estimated 50,000 vehicle movements across the state line every day "it will be a nightmare for everyone".

Ahmed Dini, a resident of one of the towers, said Tuesday that residents felt they had been treated like second-class citizens, yet on the other hand they had received an outpouring of public support.

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