Victoria to impose lockdowns in hotspots, Melbourne flights to be cancelled
30 June 2020, Written by Matt Ogg
The Victorian Government will enforce lockdowns in 10 postcodes after midnight tomorrow night, with urgent $5,000 grants for businesses in these areas that are forced to close as a result.
These drastic measures were taken following comprehensive genomic sequencing received by Premier Daniel Andrews this morning showing much of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases could be traced back to breaches of protocol in hotel quarantine.
In response to this revelation the Premier will have a former judge conduct an inquiry into hotel quarantine, and he has also informed the Prime Minister and asked for all flights to be diverted away from Melbourne for two weeks as a precautionary measure.
There is yet to be an official response from the Commonwealth, but Andrews told a press conference he was "pretty sure the answer will be yes where there'll be no further flights arriving".
"Today's flights will have been the last ones for a period of two weeks," he said.
Andrews said 10 suburbs would revert to Stage 3 restrictions with people only allowed to leave their homes for four reasons: work or school; care or caregiving; daily exercise; food and other essentials.
Residents of the following suburbs will need to comply with these restrictions for a four-week period until 29 July:
Residents of these postcodes who are already on holiday elsewhere will be able to complete their holidays, but if they have not gone on their holidays between now and tomorrow midnight they will not be permitted to leave.
As this will inevitably lead to the cancellation of bookings, Victoria's Minister for Tourism and Industry Support Martin Pakula is expected to announce support measures tomorrow.
The Premier noted people would be well aware of the restrictions implied by going back to stay-at-home order settings, with takeaway-only options for cafés and restaurants while gyms will be closed.
"We know that that's going to be painful," he said.
"We know that that's going to be a really significant challenge, so I can announce today...for each and every business that has to close because of these new rules in those 10 postcodes, there will be an urgent grant of $5,000," he said, clarifying this was an initial response and more would be done if needed.
"That adds to the $10,000 that the vast majority of these businesses have already accessed under our business support program."
The Premier said Victorian Police would be actively enforcing the suburban lockdowns and will be stopping random vehicles in an organised and coordinated way, similar to "booze bus" checks.
"These are extraordinary steps. These are not things that we've had to do in the past but such is the nature of this virus," he said.
"It is so wildly infectious that if we don't take these steps now, we will finish up in a situation of rather than locking down 10 postcodes, we will be locking down every postcode. I don't want to get to that point."
The Premier also spoke about how genomic sequencing is giving experts and decision-makers a finer level of detail about chains of transmission; linkages that are not always apparent through contact tracing by talking to people.
He said the linkages provided by the science of genomic sequencing can show how an individual has contracted the virus and links between different cases.
"This morning I received the most comprehensive genomics briefing that I have received throughout the pandemic," he said.
"What that briefing provided and put to me very clearly is that at least a significant number - and potentially more - outbreaks in the north of the city are attributable via genomic sequencing to staff members in hotel quarantine breaching well known and well understood infection control protocols.
"That is unacceptable to me. I'm sure that will be unacceptable certainly to all of those who will be impacted by the restrictions that we have had to reimpose."
A former judge will be conducting an inquiry into those control breaches and any other issues in relation to hotel quarantine.
"I hasten to add, this sequencing relates to outbreaks and chains of transmission from some time ago - there is a time lag in getting this DNA work, this sequencing done," he said.
"More recent outbreaks that can in any way be attributable to hotel quarantine, I think are a separate issue. The point I want to make is the clear issues that this raises are from some weeks ago, in fact, perhaps even longer than that."
Out of an "abundance of caution" the Premier called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to divert all flights away from Melbourne for the next two weeks.
"I'll have conversations with other state leaders to explain that and thank them in advance of the extra load that they will carry," he said.
"I would also make the point that just as we are having to focus exclusively on tracking and tracing these the spikes in numbers, and the enforcement of the stay-at-home Stage 3 in effect restrictions we've imposed on those 10 postcodes, we need to have all of our focus on that."
Updated at 3:52pm AEST on 30 June 2020.
Author: Matt Ogg