Five million people in Australia’s second-biggest city began a new lockdown Thursday, returning to tough restrictions just weeks after they ended as Melbourne grapples with a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Residents have been told to stay at home for six weeks after other measures to contain a spike in COVID-19 failed to prevent the virus spreading.
The state of Victoria, which announced a further 165 new cases Thursday, has been effectively sealed off in an effort to preserve the rest of Australia’s success in curbing the virus.
However, a rush of travellers across the border into neighbouring New South Wales on Wednesday has raised concerns those efforts could be torpedoed. Police said some 30,000 cars made the crossing in less than 36 hours.
“A few cases coming over the border from Victoria (can) tip that magic number into outbreaks that are going to be very hard to control,” epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws told public broadcaster ABC.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said two cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the border town of Albury and she warned against travel to or from communities on the state frontier.
“We want to make sure that we’re flushing out any potential seeding that occurred prior to that spike in cases becoming evident,” she told reporters in Sydney.
Queensland state announced Thursday it would turn away all travellers from Victoria — removing an option that had allowed them to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival.