Melbourne residents could soon be hit with tougher lockdown restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb.
Officials hinted that stage-four lockdown measures were being considered to limit the spread of the virus, and that would involve the closure of most shops, schools, workplaces and construction sites.
Retailers including Target, Bunnings and Officeworks were already bracing for the possible forced shutdown.
Kmart stores were preparing for the possible change, with the company looking to implement ‘drive and collect’ shopping, the Australian Financial Review reported.
Melbourne and Mitchell Shire were placed into stage three lockdown last week for at least six weeks after a record number of daily cases.
Melbourne residents could soon be hit with tougher restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases continues to soar (pictured: Tests are carried out at a pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic)
Melbourne city and Mitchell Shire were forced back into stage three lockdown last week for at least six weeks but more restrictions could soon be introduced (Pictured: Empty streets at Centre Place in Melbourne)
Despite the lockdown, the state continued to see a rise in active cases to 1,800 by Tuesday. There were 26 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, including 21 on ventilators.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned that further restrictions could soon be imposed.
High-level discussions about a possible stage-four were continuing but neither Professor Sutton nor the Premier would go into detail about how the additional restrictions could work.
In New Zealand, stage four restrictions saw all businesses close except for supermarkets, pharmacies, and other organisations it described as ‘lifeline utilities’.
The drastic seven-week lockdown helped curb infection rates.
Daily life had returned to normal in New Zealand, although its international borders remained closed to travellers.
Mr Andrews said Victoria may need to ‘go harder’ on restrictions if the numbers did not improve.
‘We always have to look at every single option, about what a next phase or next step may be, but again it will all be based on health advice and it will be based on the data,’ Mr Andrews said.
Victoria recorded 1,249 active coronavirus cases (testing in Melbourne pictured) on Saturday and it is believed that as many as 535 cases were acquired through community transmission
‘We then might also have just chains of transmission and the way the virus is presenting which means we have to go harder, if we do then we will make those announcements.’
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 10,251
New South Wales: 3,505
Western Australia: 636
South Australia: 443
Australian Capital Territory: 113
Northern Territory: 31
TOTAL CASES: 10,251
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 1,864
Professor Sutton said harsher restrictions ‘need to be considered’.
‘We can’t rule anything out if there aren’t sufficient mechanisms to drive down transmission,’ Professor Sutton said.
‘We would do the minimum required, because we know how much of an imposition it is on businesses and people’s lives, but if it’s required to reduce transmission, then it has to be in play.’
Residents are only permitted to leave home for work, study, exercise, medical care or to buy essential supplies under stage three restrictions.
Cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars have also been restricted to takeaway only.
Professor Sutton said the next few days will signal if Melbourne’s tough coronavirus lockdowns are taking effect.
He said just having people stay home wouldn’t be enough to slow the spread of coronavirus.
‘We need to work with the masks, the workplaces, make sure people are doing the right things in terms of excluding themselves and getting tested as part of that,’ he said.
On Tuesday, Victoria announced 270 new cases while a man and a woman in their 80s died in hospital, taking the state death toll to 26.
‘It’s not as high as our biggest single day, but we haven’t turned the corner yet,’ Chief Prof Sutton told reporters earlier on Tuesday.
On July 7, the government forced nine subsidised housing blocks in Flemington and North Melbourne into hard lockdown, with residents unable to leave the buildings (pictured: A tower in North Melbourne)
High-level discussions into the possibility of shops being forced to close were under way on Tuesday afternoon (pictured: The main street in Blairgowrie)
‘I hope to see that this week, but there are no guarantees.’
Mr Andrews confirmed Victoria’s last returned overseas traveller would finish hotel quarantine by Thursday.
International flights will continue to be diverted away from Melbourne indefinitely, meaning the state’s botched hotel quarantine program will stay suspended.
Some private security guards at the hotels had reportedly breached quarantine protocols, thus spreading the virus into the community.
On July 7, the government forced nine subsidised housing blocks in Flemington and North Melbourne into hard lockdown, with residents unable to leave the buildings.
Eight of those nine ‘hot zone’ towers have had their lockdowns eased now that residents have been tested, and were back at the same stage three restrictions as the rest of Melbourne.
Residents of the tower at 33 Alfred Street remained in their apartments, with no release date announced.
Latest snapshot of the coronavirus impact
* A man and a woman aged in their 80s have died of coronavirus in Victoria, taking the state’s toll to 26 and Australia’s fatalities to 110.
* Victoria recorded 270 new cases on Tuesday, tipping total cases nationwide over 10,000, with 21 people on ventilation in intensive care.
* NSW has 13 new cases and WA one, a 10-year-old boy in quarantine.
* Pubs in NSW will have patrons capped at 300 and must record contact details of every guest with 30 cases now linked to a venue in southwest Sydney. Meanwhile, residents from Liverpool and Campbelltown will be barred from entering Queensland.
* South Australia has cancelled its planned July 20 border reopening with NSW and the ACT.
* Immediate testing will be compulsory for all Victorians as soon as they land in WA, with travellers from NSW potentially next.
* Queensland will up its tough virus laws this week to include a penalty of six months’ jail.
* Australia had only 25,800 overseas arrivals in June, half of whom were returning residents, according to provisional ABS figures.
* The Australian Nursing Federation has urged against AFL matches going ahead at Perth’s Optus Stadium this week, arguing the 30,000-strong crowd risks a WA outbreak.
* The Giants are ready to decamp NSW if the AFL says go, with player Nick Shipley already relocating from his western Sydney home to teammate Shane Mumford’s house.
* AFL clubs could face the prospect of six games in a five-week span in a bid to get through the coronavirus-impacted season.
* The A-league will still play out its 2019-20 season in NSW despite the latest outbreak but has prepared a ‘Plan B’ option to shift clubs to Queensland.
* July 15 – NT to rule on if it will relax border restrictions with NSW.
* July 17 – International arrivals to WA will have to pay for their 14-day hotel quarantine.
* July 17 – NT will reopen its borders with quarantine for people from virus hotpots.
* July 18 – Returning travellers to SA and NSW to pay part of their hotel quarantine bill.
* July 31 – The earliest date Tasmania may open its borders to the mainland after delaying the move, previously planned for July 24
* August 1 – Tentative date for WA to lift all remaining restrictions, except border closures and access to remote Aboriginal communities.
AUSTRALIAN CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
* Australia’s total number of cases is now 10,251 with 2308 cases active and 7835 people recovered
* The national death toll as of Tuesday is 110: NSW 49, Victoria 26, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6, SA 4, ACT 3. (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states)
GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
* Cases: at least 12,910,357
* Deaths: at least 569,128
* Recovered: at least 7,116,957
Data current as of 1800 AEST July 14, taking in federal government and state/territory government updates and Worldometer.