Victoria Emerges From Five-Day Lockdown

Victoria Emerges From Five-Day Lockdown
Workers assist people leaving the Holiday Inn in Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 16, 2021. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Victorians are emerging from their latest five-day lockdown, but authorities are prepared for more positive coronavirus cases.

Victoria’s five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown has ended but authorities have warned more positive coronavirus cases linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak could emerge.

From Thursday, schools, offices, restaurants and shops will be able to reopen, and people will be allowed to leave their home for any reason.

Masks, however, will remain mandatory indoors and outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible, while home gatherings will be limited to five visitors, down from 15.

Public outdoor gatherings are also limited to 20 people, down from 30.

Gyms, community facilities, and entertainment venues can also reopen, while religious gatherings and ceremonies will be able to resume, subject to density limits.

Fans will also be able to return for the final days of the Australian Open tennis tournament, with crowds at Melbourne Park to be capped at 50 per cent capacity.

The new suite of restrictions will remain in place until Feb. 26.

Victoria’s five-day lockdown was announced last week amid fears the highly-infectious UK strain of COVID-19 had spread from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport into the community.

The outbreak now stands at 19 cases, while almost 3,500 close contacts remain in isolation.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned positive cases were likely to emerge from that group.

“The incubation period is 14 days. There are literally thousands of people who’ve been potentially exposed to infectious cases.

They need to see out their quarantine period. They need to not be complacent,” he said on Wednesday.

He encouraged Victorians to keep getting tested for the virus if they have “any symptoms at all.”

Victoria’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar said his team would work to “close down” the outbreak over the next nine to 10 days.

“We will see more development, and our absolute expectation and hope is that will be within the primary close contact field, the 3,500 people we’ve got locked down,” he said. “But if it goes beyond that, we'll be up for that.”

Meanwhile, the government’s plan to extend its state of emergency powers is looking in doubt after negotiations with key upper house crossbenchers failed.

Reason Party leader MP Fiona Patten said in a statement on Wednesday she would vote against the bill and urged the government to bring forward legislation specific to the pandemic.

By Benita Kolovos and Callum Godde