Victoria has entered its sixth lockdown in response to unexpected new mystery cases of COVID-19 in recent days.
- Victorians are only allowed to leave home for five reasons
- Under the lockdown, you must stay within five kilometres of your home
- Authorities are dealing with multiple mystery COVID-19 cases
Eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on Thursday, with six of those from results received on Wednesday.
The lockdown, which began at 8:00pm on Thursday, will last for seven days and there will only be five reasons for leaving home: getting groceries and supplies, exercise, care or caregiving, authorised work or education that cannot be done from home and getting vaccinated.
Under the rules, shopping and exercise must be done within five kilometres of your home.
Mask rules will remain unchanged, with masks mandatory in all indoor and outdoor settings except for inside your own home.
Premier Daniel Andrews described the decision to lock down again as “very difficult”.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to have to be here doing this again,” he said.
“But with so few in the community with one vaccination, let alone two, I have no choice but to accept advice, and we collectively [have] to make this important decision to keep Victorians safe.
“The alternative is we let this run … away from us and our hospitals will be absolutely overwhelmed [with] not hundreds of patients but thousands.”
Dozens of new exposure sites have been listed over the past 24 hours, with most in Melbourne’s west.
Meanwhile, a large group of protestors gathered in the Melbourne CBD on Thursday evening to protest against the snap lockdown.
Mystery cases in focus
Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said the people who had tested positive were going through interviews to help contract tracers establish lines of transmission.
One of the unlinked cases is a man who lives in the City of Maribyrnong and works in a warehouse in Derrimut.
Mr Weimar said one “line of inquiry” for that case involved relatives of the man who had recently returned from Sydney.
He said the results of tests on that man’s housemate and other relatives were due to be returned either tonight or early tomorrow morning.
Another two positive cases are a Hobsons Bay couple — a woman who works as a teacher at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina and a man who works in Caroline Springs.
More than 2,000 students and 300 staff members from Al-Taqwa College have been told to isolate for 14 days.
The woman was working at the school last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and it is believed she may have been infectious during that time.
The man plays for the Newport Football Club and played a game against West Footscray at Shorten Reserve on the weekend. All Newport players and officials are being tested and isolating until further notice.
Mr Weimar said relatives of the couple who live in Altona North had been tested, and two of them had returned positive results.
He said it was believed there had been some “household-to-household” contact in both the Hobsons Bay and Maribyrnong cases.
It’s also been confirmed residents of North Melbourne public housing towers are among the primary close contacts linked to Al-Taqwa College who will have to isolate for a fortnight.
Ubah Jama’s children are students at Al-Taqwa, so now her family of seven will have to isolate for 14 days in the Alfred Street towers.
“It’s very contagious and spreads easily.”
Ms Jama spoke to the ABC from inside her car after taking her family to get tested.
Meanwhile Mr Andrews urged people across the state to get tested if they had any symptoms.
He said it was important to remind people there were payments of $450 and $1,500 available to support those who had to miss work to get tested or isolate for a 14-day period.
Regional areas included in lockdown due to wastewater detections
Mr Andrews said the lockdown needed to last for seven days because there were multiple mystery cases.
“Seven days is what we believe is necessary, but let’s hope that it is accurate,” he said.
“We will be working as hard as we can to make sure that come 8:00pm next Thursday we can be out of this.”
He said part of the reason regional Victoria was included in the restrictions was because coronavirus fragments had been detected during wastewater tests in Wangaratta.
“We have some reason to believe there is COVID-19 in that community or has been in that community,” he said.
Late on Thursday, the health department said an increasing level of COVID-19 fragments were detected in wastewater samples in north-west Melbourne.
The wastewater samples came from catchments including: Attwood, Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coolaroo, Essendon Fields, Gladstone Park, Glenroy, Gowanbrae, Greenvale, Jacana, Meadows Heights, Oak Park, Pascoe Vale, Roxburgh Park, Somerton, Strathmore, Strathmore Heights, Tullamarine and Westmeadows.