A state of disaster has been declared in Victoria, with almost 5 million Melbourne residents under a stage four, six-week lockdown following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Regional Victoria, which has seen far lower case numbers, has also been placed under stage three restrictions to control the spread of the virus, which presented 671 new cases as of Sunday.
Speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning, Australia correspondent Nathan Templeton said in hindsight, it appears authorities may regret not implementing the stringent restrictions earlier in the pandemic.
"It's a really hard lockdown... it's basically what you guys did four or five months ago," Templeton told host Duncan Garner. "It turns out you were probably right from the start.
"A lot of people are thinking that in hindsight, perhaps we should've gone to this very strictest of lockdowns the first time round... we could've gone harder, earlier. A handful of bad mistakes were made, that just shows it only takes a couple of slip-ups to cause a 'public health bushfire'."
New Zealand entered alert level four of the Government's COVID-19 response on March 25, remaining in lockdown until April 27. Kiwis were only permitted to leave the home for essential purposes, including shopping for food and other supplies, medical care or taking exercise. Households became isolation 'bubbles', only to be burst under alert level two in May. Now more than three months later, Australia's second biggest city is facing similar protocol.
What does Melbourne's stage four lockdown look like?
Commencing at 6pm on Sunday, metro Melbourne faces a police-enforced curfew from 8pm to 5am for the duration of the preliminary six-week lockdown, with the only exceptions being for essential work, caregiving or medical care.
Metro Melbourne residents may only leave their homes for:
- necessary goods and services
- medical care or compassionate reasons
- work and education, if necessary.
- only one person per household is permitted to go shopping once a day for a one-hour period
- any travel for food or essential supplies must be within a 5km radius of the home - travel outside of metro Melbourne is only permitted for necessary education, essential work or on compassionate grounds
- one hour of exercise may be taken once per day with a maximum of one other person - residents cannot leave the metro Melbourne area for exercise and it must be within 5km of the home
- no visitors are permitted to attend private gatherings, however up to two people may gather in public areas
- students state-wide, including higher education and TAFE (other than vulnerable children or children of essential workers) will return to remote learning as of Wednesday. Childcare and kindergarten facilities will be closed
- recreational activity is prohibited.
- religious ceremonies and private worship may operate via broadcast only with a limit of five people
- as of Wednesday night, weddings are prohibited
- funerals are allowed with a maximum of 10 guests, plus those conducting the service. Funeral attendance is deemed as a permitted reason to leave the home and metro Melbourne.
How will businesses be impacted?
The lockdown will be "devastating" for the economy, says Templeton, as a raft of sectors face mass closures. Some businesses and industries will be permitted to operate in a limited capacity, while others will be shut down completely.
Restaurants and cafes, including market stalls, are able to offer delivery and takeaway services, but bars, pubs, food courts, clubs and nightclubs must close. Bottle shops will remain open.
Beauty and personal care services must close, with hairdressers being the one exception.
Gyms, galleries, museums, zoos, amusement parks, arcades, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, arenas, camping facilities, holiday accommodation, casinos, brothels and strip clubs must close.
According to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, supermarkets, bakeries, grocery stores, butcher shops and medical centres will remain open. Malls and shopping centres will remain open for essential shopping.
"I want to ensure all Victorians supermarkets, the butcher, the baker, food, beverage, groceries, those types of settings, there will be no impact there," he said.
General breaches of the restrictions may be penalised with an AU$1600 fine, Templeton said, with a heavy police presence on Melbourne's streets.
Premier Andrews said he would elaborate on punishments in Monday's briefing, but noted an AU$10,000 fine may also be possible.
Panic-buyers strike again
Following the declaration of a state of disaster, panic-buying resumed with a vengeance across Victoria, with supermarkets flooded in a bid to stock up on dwindling supplies.
Thousands of people were spotted waiting at South Melbourne Market despite the massive queues on Sunday, while the meat and fresh produce aisles were already stripped bare across multiple central Melbourne Woolworths.
As reported by 7 News, both Woolworths and Coles have already taken drastic action following the surge in customers on Sunday, reintroducing limits on commonly stockpiled products. There is now a temporary two-pack per person restriction on mince meat, chicken breasts, chicken thighs and a number of other food items.
Supermarkets will also operate under reduced hours to ensure customers are home before curfew.