Nearly seven million people in the state of Victoria will have to stay home for a week to seek to have a new set of cases.
Nearly seven million people in Australia’s second-largest state of Victoria will begin a snap lockdown on Thursday night, as officials blame a lazy vaccine launch and failures in hotel quarantine for a fresh outbreak of the virus twice overnight in 26 cases.
Victorian state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne that starting at 11:59 pm (13:59 GMT) only local time will be allowed to leave their homes for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping or exercise.
The order will remain in place for seven days.
“On the last day, we saw a lot of evidence that we were dealing with a lot of infectious viral diseases, a variant of anxiety, that were running faster than recorded,” Merlino said.
The authorities tightens boundaries at domestic and public gatherings and made the obligation mask on Tuesday after the first new cases emerged.
Contact tracers have so far identified 10,000 primary and secondary contacts that need to be quarantined, tested and self-isolated, but Merlino said the number is likely to change.
Experts say the lockdown is designed to give the team the time they need to track contacts while preventing the continued spread of the virus.
“Contact tracking is everything, Lockdowns is designed to give the team a chance to fight,” Catherine Bennett, head of epidemiology at Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation in Melbourne, told Al Jazeera.
“They are very good here. We have a good system. One thing I have acquired all the way is not just going to contacts in known cases but going to their contacts. In this outbreak we will once again go to the next step. If someone is identified as a case they will go to all the members of their household, test them and put them in quarantine and go to their close contacts, and their close contacts. They threw away everything they could. “
State authorities say the slow launch of the vaccine by the federal government is partly to blame for the latest lockdown.
“If more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a different situation in the current situation. But sadly we are not,” Merlino said.
This is the fourth time Melbourne has fallen into lockdown since the pandemic began. Australia’s second largest city endured the worst COVID-19 run in the country last year., which was only restrained after nearly four months of strict restraint in daily life.
Thousands of people across the town have isolated themselves after positive cases that saw many places visited including two different ones. The Aussie Rules on football matches, a series of nightclubs and a medieval battle re-enactment.
Most of Australia has COVID-19 in place after it closed its borders and imposed strict quarantines on returning citizens and residents enjoyed some restrictions.
But its vaccination program has failed to meet targets and critics say it has left the country vulnerable to overflow.
The virus has come out of hotel quarantine facilities 17 times in six months, according to the federal opposition Labor Party, which has criticized the conservative government for refusing to fix the system.
“If we had the option of quarantine at the hotel for this particular concern, we wouldn’t be here right now,” Merlino said.
About 3.7 million vaccine doses have been given so far to a population of 25 million and the government has promised more batches to be sent to Victoria in the coming weeks.
The public broadcaster on ABC reported that the vaccines had not yet been delivered to nearly 30 elderly care homes in the state, though hundreds died when the virus passed through facilities last year.
Australia recorded about 30,000 cases and fewer than 1,000 deaths from COVID -19 – most of Victoria during the second year wave.