Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed the Victoria-wide snap lockdown with “a heavy heart” after two more local COVID-19 cases were recorded this afternoon.
It brings the state’s outbreak to 18.
The entire state will be locked down from 11:59pm tonight until 11:59pm next Tuesday.
It is the fifth lockdown since the pandemic began and the third this year.
Mr Andrews said contact tracers and public health experts were moving faster than they ever had and were doing a “brilliant job”.
But he said the speed of spread of the virus meant cases could “ultimately get away from us”.
The premier said the state had no choice but to enter a “short, sharp lockdown.”
There will only be five reasons to leave the home: care giving, essential work, education if it cannot be done from home, for medical reasons, and to get vaccinated.
They are the same rules as applied to the fourth lockdown last month.
Mr Andrews said he could not guarantee that the lockdown would end next Tuesday, but said he would be working to get the state out of lockdown within the five days.
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But he said based on public health advice, restrictions in regional Victoria may potentially be lifted sooner.
“Maybe we’ll be able to let large parts of regional Victoria go back to something approaching normal. As soon as we can do that, we will,” he said.
The premier said “nothing about this virus is fair”.
“I apologise to all Victorians that this is necessary,” he said.
“But I’m confident that we can get not just around it, but we can get out in front of it.
“That’s how you really put the thing out. That’s what we have to do, because even if it’s left smouldering, it will reignite and run again. That’s how fast this thing moves.”
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Andrews won’t blame NSW
Mr Andrews would not be drawn on whether the restrictions could have been avoided if Sydney had locked down sooner.
“I’m not here to provide any of that gratuitous commentary, my job is to protect Victoria and that is what I’m doing,” Mr Andrews said.
Mask rules were already tightened overnight to respond to the outbreak, which is now linked to 18 cases.
The two new cases announced this afternoon include one linked to the MCG, bringing to three the cases linked to Saturday’s Geelong-Carlton game.
The other new case announced this afternoon is a personal close contact of the Ariele apartment complex in Maribrynong, but not a resident.
Most of the recent infections have been linked to a group of removalists from New South Wales who travelled through the state, and then to South Australia, while infectious.
On Thursday night, Victorian police confirmed they were investigating the removalists.
In a statement, Victoria Police said it was “assisting the Department of Health with their investigation in establishing the movements of the removalist team from New South Wales across Victoria”.
“The company involved has been helpful and are assisting with these enquiries,” the statement said.
Exposure sites swell
There are now 75 exposure sites and 1,500 primary close contacts in the state.
All the cases are linked to a known source from the two separate incursions that came from New South Wales.
Mr Andrews said he wanted to act “fast and early”.
“You only have one chance to go hard,” he said.
“If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier.
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“I am not prepared to avoid a five-day lockdown now only to find ourselves in a five-week or a five-month lockdown.”
You can find information on testing site hours and the nearest site to you on the Department of Health’s website.
The state’s third lockdown in February lasted for five days, with restrictions lifting fairly rapidly once it was over.
The fourth lockdown in late May was slated as a seven-day “circuit-breaker” but it stretched to 14 days as more cases emerged, with tight restrictions staying in place even after the lockdown officially lifted.
The outbreak is being driven by the fast-moving Delta variant of the virus which is spreading in New South Wales.
The last time Victoria recorded any Delta cases, the state was already in its fourth lockdown, meaning movement in the community was limited.
The state had been slowly easing out of that lockdown, with mask rules only recently relaxed and caps on social gatherings and hospitality still in place.
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