/ 28 May 2021

Fourth time’s a charm for Victoria

Almost 7 million Victorians started a statewide 7-day “circuit breaker” lockdown last night after an outbreak of COVID in Melbourne’s north grew to 26 cases yesterday. Acting Premier James Merlino said the main concern was how fast the highly contagious Indian strain was moving. Eleven new cases were reported yesterday – all linked and accounted for – which is “very reassuring”, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said. But with more than 150 exposure sites and the virus spreading “faster than we have ever recorded”, Merlino said the concern is that the strain could become “uncontrollable”.

Across Victoria, residents are required to stay at home except for essential work, shopping, exercise, caregiving, or a new one to the list – to get a COVID vaccine. More people will be able to do that with the state’s vaccination program expanding to include anyone 40yo and older. Travel is restricted to within 5km from home. Masks are mandatory, and schools will be closed except for kids of essential workers. As for cafes and restaurants, they can offer takeaway only, and public and private gatherings aren’t allowed, including at the footy, which will go ahead. States/territories were swift to shut their borders. It’s the 4th time Melburnians have been locked down, so there are many views on whether this could have been prevented…

That was the gist of Merlino’s swipe at the Morrison Government’s vaccine program rollout and approach to hotel quarantine. Labor leader Anthony Albanese yesterday jumped on that bandwagon, calling for dedicated quarantine facilities to stop the virus from escaping from hotels that aren’t fit for purpose. Morrison has consistently defended the quarantine system as “99.99% effective”, but yesterday he suggested the Feds could back Victoria’s proposed new quarantine facility for returning travellers. It would see Canberra pay for a 500-bed facility to be set up in Mickleham (outside Melbourne), with construction to start in September. “I discussed this yesterday with James Merlino, we are highly favourable towards this,” Morrison said. This and more is on the agenda for today’s National Cabinet meeting.

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