More than six million people across Victoria have woken to eerie scenes on the first day of a ‘circuit breaker’ as the state attempts to halt the spread of the deadly UK coronavirus strain in the community.
Stores are closed, shopping malls and cafes are empty, and streets are deserted as Victoria begins five days of stage four restrictions with the lockdown set to last until midnight on Wednesday.
People are now only permitted to leave their homes for one of the four essential reasons: shopping for necessary goods and services, essential work or education if it cannot be done from home, care and caregiving, exercise for two hours per day with household members, an intimate partner or one other person only.
Restaurants and cafes only allowed to offer takeaway and all non-essential retail stores have been forced to close.
Hairdressing and beauty services will be unable to operate, along with physical recreation and sporting venues, and entertainment venues.
READ MORE: All states except NSW close to Victoria
The Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne will be empty today as the Australian Open continues without spectators.
A five-kilometre travel radius has also been reinstated and masks must be worn everywhere in public.
The state was plunged into hard lockdown after the Holiday Inn cluster grew to 13 on Thursday and the list of exposure sites continues to climb, putting hundreds at risk.
Commonwealth government declares Greater Melbourne a COVID-19 hotspot
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly has today declared Greater Melbourne a COVID-19 hotspot for at least three days.
The announcement comes after eight cases linked to Melbourne’s Holiday Inn cluster were confirmed to have contracted the highly infectious UK virus strain, two of whom worked at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport while infectious.
“Due to the increased risk posed by the B.1.1.7 variant of concern, the occurrence of cases in the community whilst infectious, and the risk of spread to other jurisdictions in Australia, Greater Melbourne meets the assessment of a hotspot for the provision of Commonwealth support,” a statement from Australia’s Department of Health said.
Professor Kelly has asked “anyone who has recently been in Greater Melbourne should stay alert to public health messages from state and territory health authorities.”
The declaration will be reviewed on Monday as the states waits to determine the extent of the outbreak over coming days.