Australia's Melbourne clamps down in frantic race to curb virus

William WEST / AFP

The Australian city of Melbourne has announced fresh restrictions on industries, including retail and construction, on Monday in a bid to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus.

From Wednesday night, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, will close retail, some manufacturing and administrative businesses, as part of a six-week lockdown.

The new measures are expected to double the number of jobs affected by coronavirus restrictions to around 500,000 and along with those working from home will keep 1 million people from moving around for work, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said.

Having already imposed the strictest restrictions on movement, Victoria declared a "state of disaster" on Sunday.

Australia has fared better than many countries, with 18,361 coronavirus cases and 221 deaths from a population of 25 million, but the surge in community transmissions in Victoria has raised fears that the infection rate could blow out of control.

"As heartbreaking as it is to close down places of employment ... that is what we have to do in order to stop the spread of this wildly infectious virus," Andrews told a news conference.

"Otherwise, we are not in for six weeks of restrictions - we'll be in for a six-month stint."

The latest moves in Victoria meant production at meatworks would be cut by one-third, construction activities and staffing at distribution centres would also be scaled back and all schools would return to remote learning.

Supermarkets will remain open along with restaurant takeaway and delivery, but many other retail outlets will shut.

Andrews announced A$5,000 ($3,570) payments for affected businesses and flagged more announcements about penalties, enforcement and education on Tuesday.

"What we're dealing with here is a disaster," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a media conference.

Restrictions announced on Sunday included a curfew from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am for six weeks, barring the city's nearly five million people from leaving their homes except for work or to receive or give care.

"The idea that, in this country, we'd be living at a time where there would be a night curfew on an entire city of the size of Melbourne was unthinkable," Morrison said.

More from International

Latest Local News