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Victorian Premier announces snap five-day lockdown from midnight

“I apologise to all Victorians that this is necessary. But part of my job is not just making popular and easy decisions, it’s doing what must be done and at this stage a state-wide lockdown is what’s put to me as essential by the public health experts.

Victoria also recorded another two new cases in addition to the two reported earlier on Thursday.

COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said there were now 18 active cases in the community associated with the latest outbreak.

Mr Weimar said one of the new cases was also an attendee at the MCC members’ reserve at the MCG for the Carlton versus Geelong match on Saturday afternoon. There are now three cases linked to the AFL match on July 10.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Daniel O’Brien has highlighted the excitement of football fans as a particular dynamic of concern at sports venues and authorities were examining CCTV footage to figure out where the people crossed paths.

“I think we know that you can aerosolise the virus when you’re cheering,” he said.

The other late afternoon case was a personal contact for a known positive case from the Ariele Apartment complex in Maribyrnong.

What are the new rules

Under the fifth lockdown rules, people will be allowed to leave home to get food or essential supplies, for two hours exercise and no more than five kilometres from home, for care or caregiving, work or education (that cannot be done from home) or to get vaccinated.

“Essentially there are those five reasons to leave for reasons from last year plus going and getting your jab and being vaccinated as part of the Commonwealth government’s program,” Mr Andrews said.

“[There’s] no need to panic buying [or] any of that, we’ve proven that there’s no need to do that, … you can go and exercise, all the usual things that have applied over time. They have worked before, they will work again, they’ve worked against different [strains] of this virus most recently, it’s worked against Delta, and they will work this time.

“If we all invest in this. If we all accept this it’s not where we want it to be and it’s not easy, but it’s essential. Otherwise, we’ll be five weeks or five months, and I’m just not prepared to wait for the sake of convenience.”

The two new cases announced earlier in the day – an adult and a child who sat separately at the MCG during Saturday’s match between Carlton and Geelong – were on top of the 10 new cases officially recorded on Thursday but reported throughout the day on Wednesday.

Mr Weimar said those cases were not known to each other or the other two previously confirmed cases at the MCG.

Mr Weimar said they were sitting in “very different parts of the ground” and that the MCG was now the focus of the state’s contact tracers.

“Both these cases put us in a serious situation. We need to establish whether there are any other people who were at the MCG – that’s a critical bit of information we need to get to today.

“If you are getting those tier-1, tier-2 text messages and you haven’t got tested, we need you to come and do that now.

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“Whatever you’re doing at the moment, stop doing it. Please come and get tested so we can get that information and get you safe and secure.”

Mr Weimar also noted that one of the new MCG cases was linked to two gyms in Melbourne’s west that were added to the official list of exposure sites on Wednesday morning.

Despite concerns about further transmission at the MCG, Mr Weimar lauded the speed of the state’s health team.

“[In] the last 72 hours we’ve burned through seven rings [of contract tracing] exceptionally quickly.

“This is probably the fastest response we’ve ever seen to an outbreak moving more quickly than we’ve ever seen here in Victoria, or I suspect anywhere else in Australia.”

Reaction to the lockdown

Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien speaking ahead of the announcement on Thursday said he believed the government was moving too early on new restrictions.

“We can’t keep living like this,” Mr O’Brien said.

A full lockdown would be a “massive kick in the guts for a state that’s done it so tough already”, he said.

Melbourne’s lord mayor Sally Capp said the five-day statewide lockdown was understandable but would hurt the city.

“Every Melburnian should listen to the health experts and follow the rules for this reported snap lockdown,” Cr Capp said.

“However, we need to acknowledge that lockdowns have a devastating impact on city businesses and hurt confidence”.

Mr Andrews invoked his own country heritage as he defended putting the entire state in lockdown as concerns about the outbreak has centred on Melbourne and its immediate surrounds.

“Nothing about this virus is fair. Nothing about the fact that this virus has travelled from Sydney is fair. That’s just the reality we face.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing the state will enter a fifth lockdown on Thursday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing the state will enter a fifth lockdown on Thursday.Credit:Getty

“I apologise to all Victorians that this is necessary. But part of my job is not just making popular and easy decisions, it’s doing what must be done and at this stage a statewide lockdown is what’s put to me as essential by the public health experts.

“I just again impress upon all of those viewers and listeners from parts of our state that are a long way from Melbourne – I know that part of the world, I grew up in a community very much like that, I know how inconvenient this is.

Mr Andrews just took what sounded like a swipe at the NSW approach to lockdown by declaring retail closed and there would be no “browsing”.

“Retail is shut, closed, click and collect, contactless. If you’re on the list, go to work, if not, you can’t. We are going to can everything we can to try to extinguish this thing, to put it out in five days,” he said.

Lockdown support for businesses

Mr Andrews has flagged he’ll be making the case for Commonwealth government support during Victoria’s latest lockdown.

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He said he had exchanged text messages with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who announced a revamped support scheme earlier on Thursday, throughout the day and expected to speak to him tonight.

“All week, there has been a bit of banter and back and forth between our government and the Commonwealth. All we’ve sought to do and what I think we have done is remind the Commonwealth government that at every point, they have said that packages of support and measures and policies and plans are based on need.

“Well, there is need in Victoria from 11.59pm tonight. And we expect the Commonwealth government will step up and help those people who need the help.”

Mr Andrews suggested there might need to be a pro-rata approach given the federal support contemplates a seven-day lockdown threshold.

“He’s on seven days and because of health advice we’ve decided to go with five days. For
the sake of a couple of days I really don’t think that we can have people going without the payments that they’re entitled to,” he said.

“I would have thought five-sevenths of that weekly payment would be a pretty good place to settle.”

Mr Andrews said the state would pick up the tab for support in areas not declared as federal hotspots and would split payments if the lockdown stretched beyond two weeks as had happened in NSW.

Hume outbreak

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a man is his 30s who contracted the virus at a Coles in Craigieburn was actually an acquaintance of a positive case who had recently returned from Sydney.

Officials revealed on Wednesday that the man tested positive after visiting the supermarket in Melbourne’s north at the same time as a man who lives in the City of Hume who was infectious.

“We’re confident with that particular exposure site that … they’ve spent a bit of time together to achieve that transmission,” Mr Weimar said.

Victoria’s latest coronavirus outbreaks, which now take in a total 16 cases including at least two children, are both offshoots of Sydney’s Delta clusters: three Sydney removalists who breached their permit conditions and a family who returned from Sydney and were supposed to be isolating at home.

A primary school in the border town of Wodonga also shut its doors on Monday and sent all children and staff home after two students attended a tier-one exposure site on the weekend.

The two students at St Monica’s have not tested positive to the virus, however the school has been closed as a precaution.

Principal Jacqui Partington wrote to the school community earlier today, notifying them of an immediate shutdown and directing all students and anyone who has been on site to “isolate immediately until further notice”.

St Patrick’s Primary in Murrumbeena has been closed after a positive case attended the school.

St Patrick’s Primary in Murrumbeena has been closed after a positive case attended the school.Credit:Joe Armao

“We will remain shut down until we know for certain that it is safe to return to site,” Ms Partington wrote.

St Monica’s is the fourth Victorian school to close in the past 24 hours, following the closure of St Patrick’s Primary in Murrumbeena, Bacchus Marsh Grammar and Barwon Heads Primary.

Parents and carers at St Patrick’s Primary in Murrumbeena were asked to collect their children on Thursday morning after a student, the child who attended the MCG on Saturday tested positive for the virus.

All grade 4 students at the Catholic school in Melbourne’s south-east were ordered to go directly to a testing station before heading home and isolating until further notice. Students in other year levels have been encouraged to get tested.

Mr Weimar said 315 members of staff at Bacchus Marsh Grammar were in isolation as primary close contacts, and 3000 students at the school were in isolation as secondary close contacts.

He said 49 staff and 527 students at Barwon Heads Primary had been identified as either primary or secondary close contacts.

“We’ve got local testing set up … the school community has been fantastic,” Mr Weimar said.

Many schools also told their students to take their things home as the school bell rang on Thursday afternoon in anticipation of a return to remote learning.

Tina King, the acting president of the Australian Principals’ Federation, said earlier in the day that schools were prepared for the announcement.

“I’ve spoken to a few secondary principals, they are telling their kids, take your stuff home tonight just in case,” she said.

Ms King said schools had plenty of practice in making a swift transition to remote learning and could potentially do so tomorrow.

“We’ve learnt how quickly we can do that transition,” she said.

The list of high-risk exposure sites now includes over 80 exposure sites, including public transport routes, a CBD pub, the MCG, Highpoint Shopping Centre and DFO University Hill in Bundoora. The men’s toilet at Oakleigh shopping centre was added as a tier-1 location on Thursday afternoon.

Cars queuing at a COVID-19 testing site in Craigieburn on Thursday.

Cars queuing at a COVID-19 testing site in Craigieburn on Thursday.Credit:Justin McManus

Western Australia on Wednesday enforced new border restrictions on visitors from Victoria, who must isolate for 14 days upon entering the state, while South Australia also tightened restrictions for Victorians, requiring them to undertake a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arriving and not enter high-risk settings such as aged care for 14 days after arriving.

Four of the cases announced on Wednesday were residents of the Ariele Apartments complex at Maribyrnong in Melbourne’s north-west. The parents of one of those residents, a man in his 60s, also tested positive, making cases five and six.

The seventh reported case was the man in his 30s who visited the Coles in Craigieburn Central.

Case eight was a teacher from Bacchus Marsh Grammar who watched the Carlton versus Geelong AFL match at the MCG on Saturday with a friend who lives in the Ariele Apartments.

Two of his family members have also tested positive, becoming cases nine and 10.

There were 27,061 COVID-19 test results processed in the 24 hours to midnight on Wednesday, and more than 15,161 people received their vaccine doses.

New exposure site

Banyule Council’s Greensborough office and WaterMarc aquatic and leisure facility have been closed and hundreds of workers sent home, after a staff member who had worked in the Greensborough office on Monday returned a positive COVID-19 test result on Thursday.

Neither building is currently listed as an exposure site, but both were expected to be listed late on Thursday.

A Banyule Council spokesman said when the council became aware of the case, it took steps to immediately close its offices. The council recommended anyone showing symptoms get tested and monitor exposure sites.

With Annika Smethurst, Bianca Hall

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