New month-long lockdown for 300,000 Australians as guards patrol streets and residents warned bug here ‘for a long time’

MORE than 300,000 people in Melbourne are being forced back into lockdown after being warned the virus is going nowhere fast.

The Australian city has imposed new stay-at-home orders in dozens of suburbs after being rocked by a new spike in coronavirus cases.

Tests are being carried out on residents in Melbourne

The new lockdown will be enforced by checks at police stop points

The new lockdown will be enforced by checks at police stop points

The month-long crackdown is being imposed on around 320,000 people today.

The drastic move came as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned the fight against COVID-19 won’t be over “for a long time”.

“Essentially we really just need to impress upon all Victorians that this is not over,” he said.

“It won’t be over for a long time and the best and most important thing that we can all do, whether we are in one of these hot spot postcodes or not is to follow the rules.”

Anyone in the restricted postcodes caught breaching stay-at-home orders for non-essential reasons could face an on-the-spot fine of £900.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said officers and guards will be out enforce ensuring the rules are being followed.

“They’ll have mobile teams, so they’ll be pulling up people randomly,” she revealed.

“They’ll look at things like on and off ramps at arterial roads, so using a booze bus type model where you pull people over, check where they’re going in, why are they going in, why are they leaving.

“They’ll be at transport hubs – who’s getting on the transport system and why they’re doing that.”

Residents in the restricted areas must now stay home unless travelling for work, school, healthcare, exercise or food for a period of four weeks.

Residents must stay home unless travelling for work, school, healthcare, exercise or food

Residents must stay home unless travelling for work, school, healthcare, exercise or food
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said the tough new measures were essential
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said the tough new measures were essential

Cafes and restaurants will have to revert to takeaway only – just weeks after they reopened to seated diners.

The state government also requested all flights be diverted to other states to prevent the risk of imported cases.

“If we don’t take these steps now we will finish up in a situation (where rather) than locking down 10 postcodes, we will be locking down every postcode,” said Andrews, referring to postal codes which cover the 36 suburbs.

“People are desperate for this to be over, no one more than me, but it isn’t and pretending won’t get us to the other side.”

Those living in the ten postcodes will not be allowed to go on holiday and the government will announce a support package for affected tourism businesses tomorrow.  

The return to lockdown is a devastating setback for the home state of nearly a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people.

Worryingly it has been widely seen to have taken one of the toughest enforcement approaches when the country first went into lockdown in March.

But while most other Australian states have reported zero or low single-digit daily increases in COVID-19 infections for weeks, Victoria has experienced double-digit increases for each of the previous 14 days.

A sign in the window of a hotel in Melbourne's city centre

A sign in the window of a hotel in Melbourne’s city centre
An elderly man has a Covid-19 test in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows 
An elderly man has a Covid-19 test in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows 

In the 24 hours to Tuesday, Victoria reported 64 new cases, down from the previous day’s 75 new cases.

By comparison, the most populous state, neighbouring New South Wales, and the third-most populous, Queensland, both reported no new cases.

The vast country has had 104 deaths from about 7,800 infections – tiny figures compared to those seen in the UK.

There were 87 new coronavirus cases overnight, the highest daily increase Australia has seen since April.   

The u-turn in Melbourne is at odds with moves taken by neighbouring South Australia and the northern state of Queensland which both unveiled plans to reopen internal borders to the rest of the country except Victoria, citing its infection numbers.

“We have worked so hard to get ourselves into a very enviable position and we are not prepared to go backwards,” South Australia state premier Steven Marshall told reporters.

Queensland said it would reopen its border to the rest of the country from July 10 while keeping out arrivals from Victoria.

Military personnel at a drive-through testing station in Melbourne

Military personnel at a drive-through testing station in Melbourne
Guests at the Stamford Hotel in Melbourne are seen wearing masks as they get into taxis
Guests at the Stamford Hotel in Melbourne are seen wearing masks as they get into taxis

Queensland does not share a border with Victoria but would make people entering from other states sign a declaration that they had not been to Victoria for 14 days with the threat of a £2,000 fine if they were caught lying.

NSW, which borders Victoria, said it would continue to keep its border open as it focused on supporting its economy amid the pandemic.

On Monday night Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to Premier Daniel Andrews and urged him to shut down ‘hotspot’ suburbs before the outbreak gets worse.

The state’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the government was considering ‘anything required’ to stop the spread.  

In April Tasmania successfully locked down 5,000 residents in its northwest to halt an outbreak, providing a blueprint for local shut downs.

Earlier we reported how the World Health Organisation warned that the worst of the coronavirus is “still to come” as global deaths passed the 500,000 mark.

The organisation’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the pandemic was “speeding up” across the world – despite the significant progress made in containing the deadly bug.

Latin America has emerged as a new hotspot, with Brazil recording over 58,000 deaths and a million cases and the infection rate showing no sign of slowing down.

The country reported its second-highest weekly death toll with 7,005 fatalities last week – with pressure mounting on President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the crisis.

Chile, meanwhile, has been recording over 4,000 new infections each day for the past two weeks and Peru now has the world’s sixth-highest number of infections.

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