Since midnight Thursday, May 27, more than five million inhabitants of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, have been ordered to confine themselves following the appearance of an outbreak of Covid-19 due to the so-called “Indian” variant.
This seven-day confinement concerns the city of Melbourne, as well as the state of Victoria which surrounds it, declared the acting Prime Minister of this state, James Merlino, while the number of cases related to this cluster has doubled, going to 26. “We are dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a disturbing variant, which is spreading faster than anything we have ever recorded”, underlined Mr. Merlino.
This variant B.1.617, detected in India for the first time, shows increased transmissibility. It would have spread through a traveler returning from abroad. Schools, bars and restaurants will close, all gatherings will be banned while the wearing of masks will be compulsory again.
New Zealand has already suspended flights without quarantine from the state of Victoria on Tuesday and the main air links with other Australian states were reduced.
This containment measure, intended to have a “cut-out” effect, should allow health authorities to trace contact cases as effectively as possible. For a week, residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for urgent needs, including getting vaccinated.
Labor James Merlino accused the Conservative federal government of being partly behind this lockdown due to the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccination campaign:
“If more people were vaccinated, the circumstances would be very different from what we know today. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. “
This is the fourth containment of Australia’s second largest city since the start of the pandemic. Thousands of Melbourne residents had already been ordered to self-quarantine after cases recorded in dozens of places, including a stadium and nightclubs.
“No system is infallible”
In recent months, Australians have experienced few restrictions as the huge island continent has been successful in curbing the pandemic. Voices were, however, raised to denounce the slowness of the vaccination campaign. Only 3.7 million doses have been administered to a population of 25 million.
The Labor opposition criticizes the government for not reviewing the quarantine system for travelers arriving from abroad, which has shown failures. “If we had had an alternative to hotel quarantine (…), we would not be there today ”, said Mr. Merlino.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison brushed aside these criticisms, saying“No system is infallible” and that Australia’s fight against the coronavirus has so far proved particularly effective. “We will do all we can to protect the lives and livelihoods of Australians, we have already lost 910 people to Covid-19 during this pandemic. Of course, this figure is far from what some countries have known ”, did he declare.
Mr Morrison urged eligible Australians to get vaccinated, saying the lifestyle “Wonderful and enviable” Australians during most of the pandemic has made some hesitant to get vaccinated.
Health Minister Greg Hunt assured that the first doses of the vaccine were being delivered to the last nursing homes in Victoria state, where hundreds of people died when the virus got there. spread last year.
In Melbourne, tens of thousands of people lined up to be tested for Covid-19 and others rushed to get vaccinated as the state opened vaccination centers for the first time. people aged 40 to 49.
Australia has totaled since the start of the pandemic less than 30,000 cases of Covid-19 – most in the state of Victoria during the second wave last year – with less than a thousand deaths in the country.