Five million people in Melbourne are preparing to re-enter lockdown as police and military forces seal off Australia’s second largest city.
People are scrambling to escape Victoria as neighbouring states shut their borders.
Australians have been warned the devastating coronavirus outbreak that has plunged Melbourne into chaos could be replicated across the country.
“It’s Victoria now, it could be anyone,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told Sky News on July 8.
“We’re all going to have to live with this virus for a long while.”
Drivers have queued for kilometres at the Victoria-NSW border, which closed overnight.
People travelling interstate for work or health reasons will need to apply for permits.
Other Victorians are preparing to dash across to South Australia before its hard border closure takes effect.
From midnight on Wednesday, only South Australians coming home and essential travellers will be allowed to cross from Victoria.
Melburnians are being forced to stay home for another six weeks to stem the spread of the deadly disease.
They will only be allowed out to shop for essentials, for care or compassionate reasons, exercise, work or study.
The harsh restrictions will cost the economy up to $6 billion.
It will also paralyse thousands of small businesses and plunge their employees into another round of uncertainty.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering whether to extend JobKeeper wage subsidies and the boosted JobSeeker dole payment beyond their September expiry.
“There will be another phase of income support,” he told the Seven Network on Wednesday.
Banks are also extending loan payment holidays for struggling customers.
Roughly 800,000 people have applied for six-month deferrals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Households and businesses still struggling to make repayments by late September will be offered another four months.
Victorian parents with kids in child care have been thrown another lifeline.
The federal government will waive Victorian parent gap fees if children don’t attend for coronavirus-related reasons.
Daniel McCulloch in Canberra