Victoria’s lockdown set to end within hours

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Victoria’s snap “short, sharp circuit-breaker” coronavirus lockdown will end on schedule tonight, Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed, but mask rules and gathering limits will remain in place.

People wearing face masks are seen at the entrance of the Menarock Life aged care facility, where a cluster of infections has been reported.  There are Covid-19 cases linked to 40 aged care facilities in Victoria.

Masks will remain mandatory in all indoor settings outside the home as Victoria’s latest lockdown comes to an end.
Photo: AFP

Schools will re-open, workplaces will return to 50 percent capacity and people will be allowed to leave the house for any reason.

However, masks will remain mandatory in all indoor settings outside the home and mandatory outdoors when keeping a physical distance of 1.5 metres is not possible.

Andrews said the wearing of masks was an “ongoing insurance policy”.

From 11:59pm tonight until 11:59pm Friday 26 February, Victorians will only be allowed five visitors to the home, instead of the previous 15-person limit.

Up to 20 people from any number of households will be allowed at public gatherings.

Hospitality venues will return to their pre-lockdown settings, with a density quotient of one person per 2 square metres once there are more than 25 patrons in a venue.

Visits to hospitals and care facilities will be limited to one household per day.

The snap lockdown came into effect hours after it was announced on Friday and was prompted by fears the more infectious B117 “variant of concern” had spread from an outbreak linked to a quarantine hotel into the community.

All 19 of the confirmed cases linked to the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport outbreak are understood to have the more virulent UK strain of Covid-19.

After processing nearly 40,000 test results yesterday, the state did not detect any new cases of Covid-19 in the community or in hotel quarantine.

Andrews said he believed it was “the biggest single day of testing” since the pandemic began in Victoria.

There are still abut 3400 close contacts of primary cases who are completing a 14-day quarantine, who may test positive during the incubation period.

“I am not foreshadowing any changes to these rules between now and Friday week,” Andrews said.

“I of course acknowledge the very difficult circumstances many have faced but there was simply no alternative but to follow the advice provided.”

Victoria's state premier Daniel Andrews speaks during a press conference in Melbourne on August 5, 2020.

Premier Daniel Andrews says the state has just undergone the biggest day of Covid testing in its history.
Photo: AFP

The outbreak and the lockdown which followed have placed increased scrutiny on Victoria’s hotel quarantine programme and contact tracing capacity.

Business groups have criticised the restrictions and the Australian Medical Association has declared the state “cannot be trusted” to run hotel quarantine.

The state is now investigating building fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities.

“If we had been open through this outbreak then that number [of close contacts] would not be 3400,” Andrews said.

“It would be much, much higher than that, total case numbers would be much, much higher than that and it is a certainty I would not be reporting zero cases today.”

– ABC

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