MELBOURNE, Australia — Dawn is breaking on Victoria’s fourth Covid-19 lockdown and authorities are urging people to get vaccinated to ensure this is their last.
Victoria’s seven-day, statewide shutdown kicked in just before midnight on May 27 in a bid to contain Melbourne’s 26-case City of Whittlesea outbreak.
People are now only able to leave home for five reasons — to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise, work or study if they are unable to from home, and to get vaccinated.
To allow more Victorians to get the jab, those aged 40 to 49 are now eligible for the sought-after Pfizer vaccine.
“The vaccine is really our only ticket out of this,” Health Minister Martin Foley said.
Foley tweeted “From 11:59 pm tonight, VIC will enter a 7-day circuit breaker and there will only be 5 reasons to leave your home that is Shopping for necessary goods & services, Caregiving & compassionate reasons, Authorized work or permitted education, Exercise and Receiving a vaccination.”
Some people waited on hold for hours on the state’s coronavirus hotline to secure a booking on May 27.
The health department said it was flooded with over 77,000 calls in a 15-minute window but “technical issues” had since been resolved.
Other all-too-familiar rules Victorians now find themselves living under include a five-kilometer travel limit for exercise and shopping, and compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors.
All non-essential retail is closed but essential stores like supermarkets, bottle shops, and pharmacies will remain open, with shopping limited to one person per day, per household.
Cafes and restaurants can only offer takeaway.
Premier Daniel Andrews released a statement on the same encouraging people to stay home and stay safe.
Child care and kinder will stay open but schools have been forced to return to remote learning for most students, with state-run institutions given a pupil-free day on May 28 to prepare for the switch.
The lockdown, seeded in South Australian hotel quarantine, has again raised questions about the capability of Victoria’s contact tracing system, which was partially blamed for the state’s second 112-day lockdown.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was “absurd” to suggest contact tracing was failing.
Hundreds gathered outside Flinders Street Station on May 25 night to protest the latest shutdown before the stay-at-home rules came into effect.
Liberal Democratic Party Member of Parliament David Limbrick, previously fined for attending an anti-lockdown protest last November, was among those to address demonstrators.
The lockdown is set to end at 11.59 pm on June 3, although Acting Premier James Merlino said it could end earlier.
Merlino said he had faith in the state’s contact tracing team but the virus was “running faster than we have ever recorded”.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari. Map by Urvashi Makwana)
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