Sydney, Australia, Jul 7 (efe-epa).- The Australian authorities announced Tuesday that they will impose a six week lockdown in Melbourne, which has about 4.9 million inhabitants, from midnight on Wednesday, following a spike in COVID-19 cases in the city.
Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria state, whose capital is Melbourne, announced the move to control the transmission of new infections, which increased by 191 in this jurisdiction on Tuesday, with 37 connected to known and contained outbreaks and the remaining 154 under investigation.
Andrews, whose government had imposed drastic measures during the worst phase of the epidemic in Australia, also announced a lockdown in Mitchell Shire, 77 kilometers (48 miles) from Melbourne, due to the high number of infections in that rural area.
“We have to be realistic about the circumstances that we confront. We have to be clear with each other that this is not over and pretending that it is because we all want it to be over is not the answer. It is, indeed, part of the problem,” Andrews said.
On Monday, the authorities announced the closing of the border between the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales, the country’s most populous and major economic players, for the first time in 100 years and which comes into effect at midnight on Tuesday.
The border with New South Wales, the length of which spans 4,635 kilometers, will be monitored by around 650 police officials, assisted by some 100 soldiers.
The Australian authorities have also deployed an additional 260 military personnel to assist with logistics and testing for COVID-19 in Victoria, whose economy accounts for 23 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product.
Victoria’s authorities plan to continue their mass testing program to detect COVID-19, especially in nine public housing towers in Melbourne, where some 3,000 people have been subjected since Saturday to much stricter confinement measures than the twelve areas that have been isolated in the city due the outbreak.
“The strategy here is to complete the testing and then as soon as possible, once that testing is complete, to have those nine towers removed to the same footing that the rest of Melbourne will move to at 11:59 pm tomorrow night. A stay-at-home with four reasons for leaving,” Andrews explained.
Victoria, which has been facing a crisis over the last two weeks on account of the new COVID-19 outbreak, has over 2,800 of the 8,500 cases in Australia, including 22 deaths out of the 106 fatalities recorded in the country since the start of the epidemic.
Reconfinement in Melbourne will be more stringent than the previous occasion and residents will not be able to travel to their second homes although they will be able to leave home to go to work, shop, study or go to the doctor.
Restaurants and cafeterias will only be able to sell takeaway food, schools will extend their vacations, while hairdressers will be the only ones that will be able to keep their doors open, according to the announced measures.
“If we don’t take those steps, it won’t be a couple of hundred cases a day, it will be much more than that and it will get out of control,” Andrews explained.
Last week, local authorities have already confined twelve Melbourne areas and nine public housing towers, in addition to conducting massive tests to detect potential carriers.
To avoid possible expansion into other regions, the border between the state of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, and the state of New South Wales, the country’s two main territories and whose combined population exceeds 50 percent of total Australia.
This border, with more than 4,600 kilometers, remained open during the harshest months of the pandemic and its closure, for the first time in more than a century, will be controlled by 650 police officers and, as confirmed by a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense to Efe, for between 350 and 500 soldiers.
Victoria, which represents 23 percent of the national economy, is also isolated from Australia’s other jurisdictions, which in some cases have gone weeks without reporting infections.
Australia, which has invested more than 13 percent of its Gross Domestic Product in aid funds and pandemic stimuli, is considered the third best country in managing the fight against the pandemic, after South Cora and Latvia, according to a recent UN world report on Sustainable Development. EFE-EPA