Melbourne begins second shutdown after cases spike

Australia’s second-largest city has begun a second lockdown in response to a spike in new coronavirus infections.

Melbourne’s five million residents will be barred from leaving home for six weeks, except for essential reasons.

Police say they are setting up a “ring of steel” around the city, with “checkpoints anytime and anywhere” to enforce the measures.

Borders between Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and neighbouring states closed on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to Melburnians’ resilience on Wednesday.

“The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community,” he said during a news conference.

Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Melbourne lockdown on Tuesday after the state saw 191 new infections, its highest daily number since the pandemic began.

Wednesday’s figure was down to 134, but still much higher than numbers in the rest of the country.

“I think people are definitely more scared this time. People are acting more erratic – you can see that on the roads, at the shops,” one resident, Gael Baek, told the BBC.

Australia has recorded almost 9,000 cases and 106 deaths from the virus.

On Wednesday, the Melbourne outbreak was linked to three cases in the Australian Capital Territory and one in New South Wales.

What are the new restrictions?

But now people will be kept to their homes and will only be able to leave for essential reasons, such as for work, exercise and shopping for food and other necessities.

Schools will largely return to distance learning and restaurants will, once again, only be permitted to serve takeaway food. However, shops and hairdressers will remain open.

The lockdown covers only Melbourne and a 10,000 sq km area to the north called the Mitchell Shire. But the state as a whole has been sealed off from neighbouring New South Wales and South Australia.

Police and troops have been stationed at dozens of border crossings and patrol the vast borders with drones and other aircraft.

As of Thursday, they will also be doing random checks on vehicles in and around the city. (BBC News)