Why Melbourne has spent six months in lockdown

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Melburnians will have spent six months in hard lockdown by next week, but epidemiologists warn the current outbreak risk is far from over.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday announced the state’s fifth lockdown would be ­extended by seven days – meaning that by next Tuesday Melburnians will have notched up 185 days inside their homes during the pandemic.

“More time is required for us to be certain and to be confident that we have extinguished this,” he said.

“There are chains of transmission that are not yet contained. We’ve seen how quickly this runs. We see how challenging this can become in a very short space of time.”

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Daniel Andrews says more time is required in lockdown. Picture: Mark StewartSource:News Corp Australia

Authorities won’t lift the lockdown until they are confident that almost all cases had been in isolation during their infectious period.

Mr Andrews said reopening the state at five cases per day, as the government did last year, was no longer an ­option due to the Delta variant’s infectiousness.

“If we leave it smouldering at low levels … there is every chance that we are back here, locked down again,” he added.

Chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said it was too early to say whether the five-day lockdown had allowed contact tracers to control the outbreak.

He said although the extension would be reviewed daily, “I can’t say yet whether we are ahead of this thing”. But he added: “It’s going in the right direction.”

Victorians still have only five reasons to leave home.

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The Premier said it was no longer an option to lift the lockdown at five cases per day, as the government did last year. Picture: Daniel PockettSource:Getty Images

But some outdoor services including mobile pet-grooming services can now operate.

Students with a disability will also be able to return to school, if a parent or a carer feels their child can’t learn from home.

The lockdown will run until 11.59pm next Tuesday, but leading epidemiologists have warned there’s no guarantee it will end as planned.

Associate Professor Lei Zhang, who heads Monash University’s artificial intelligence and modelling in epidemiology program, has predicted that between 22 and 33 more days in lockdown will be needed to eliminate community transmission.

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Chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday: “I can’t say yet whether we are ahead of this thing”. Picture: Daniel PockettSource:Getty Images

However, a 10 per cent increase in vaccination coverage could reduce that duration to 15 to 23 days, Prof Zhang said.

University of South Australia professor of biostatistics Adrian Esterman said there was a “real possibility” that the lockdown would still be extended further.

“The outbreak is in its early days still and it could easily get worse. The next two or three days will be the key in telling the picture, (but) I would be surprised if it didn’t go longer than a week,” he said.

Deakin University chair of epidemiology Prof Catherine Bennett said it was unlikely the state would emerge early from the extended lockdown.

“The lockdown will include the weekend. I think the chance (of easing lockdown early) is pretty small, even if all the signals are good,” she said.

“With this variant circulating, if there’s any belief that there could be any people that may have been missed or gone undetected, they’d want to hold the full seven days.”

Australian Retail Association CEO Paul Zahra warned more than $8bn worth of the nation’s retail trade was at risk, with the lockdown extension set to seal the fate of many small businesses.

Felicia Mariani of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council said the industry was on the verge of collapse.

Paul Guerra of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the extension was “devastating”.

“Businesses and workers do not have the cash or emotional reserves for further restrictions on trade and work,” he said.

The Pastoral Hotel in Echuca has defied the lockdown, ­reopening on Saturday and serving about 70 meals.

Owner Trevor Andrews said despite police twice visiting his Sturt Street venue, it would remain open. Just across the border in NSW, pubs in Moama are open under restrictions.

“We can’t keep going like this, they’ve tried to lock us down five times and it has got beyond the point of ridiculous,” he said.

Community sporting clubs fear the rest of their season will be written off with the lockdown extension, many only just recovering from the last shut down.

Oakleigh Little Athletics president Andrew Allan said kids’ hopes for a season return had been “dashed” last week after having three award presentations scrapped during the pandemic.

“We are very disappointed,” Mr Allan said.

“We released the results online but it’s not the same as waiting in expectation and smiling in front of friends.”

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Andrew Allan from Little Athletics Victoria with Bonnie 10, Jack 14, Cate 11, Sam 14 and Nicholas 14. Picture: Wayne TaylorSource:News Corp Australia

Health authorities are still awaiting test results from a number of close contacts.

More than 18,000 people – linked to 82 cases – have been deemed close contacts, with around a third of those living in regional Victoria.

Thirteen locally acquired cases, including four announced on Monday, were detected in the community on Tuesday, but a mystery case has authorities on high alert.

Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said a Roxburgh Park woman, aged in her 20s, may have “potential social links” to the City of Hume cluster. He added: “I am very, very concerned.”

DISASTER PAYMENTS ON THE WAY

Victorians impacted by the latest lockdown can claim disaster payments from this Friday.

Those who are eligible can claim $600 per week if they have lost more than 20 hours of work, and $375 each week if they have lost between 8 and 20 hours of work.

In a statement, Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience, Senator Bridget Mckenzie said claiming the payment on the myGov website “is the quickest and easiest option.”

The Minister added: “The payment is now recurring and automatically paid for any future weeks via lockdown.”

Originally published asWhy Melbourne has spent six months in lockdown

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