Victoria announces stage four coronavirus lockdown restrictions including overnight curfew

Melbourne residents will be subject to an overnight curfew for the next six weeks, and be banned from travelling more than 5km to go shopping or to exercise, as Victoria attempts to get the number of new coronavirus cases under control.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that from 6pm on Sunday, residents in the Melbourne metropolitan area would be under curfew for six weeks until 13 September.

Andrews also declared a state of disaster in Victoria for the first time since the bushfires earlier this year.

Under the new restrictions, people would only be able to leave their home once a day for essential supplies and food, and once for one hour of exercise, within a 5km radius.

“We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever. It is not an easy decision to make but it is necessary and that’s why I’ve made it and that’s why police will be out in force and you will be stopped and you will be asked and need to demonstrate that you are lawfully out and you are not breaching that curfew,” Andrews said on Sunday.

Between 8pm and 5am, people living in Melbourne will not be able to leave home except for work, medical care and caregiving.

People will still be able to visit their partners – including if it is further than 5km from home.

There is also an exception to the 5km rule if the nearest supermarket is further than 5km from home.

Golf and tennis venues, which were allowed to stay open in stage 3, will be closed again and people will no longer be allowed to exercise in groups larger than two, even for those living in the same household.

Regional Victoria will move to stage 3 restrictions from midnight on Wednesday.

Food and grocery stores will stay open, amid reports of people queuing up outside Coles and Woolworths outlets across the state.

On Sunday, Woolworths announced restrictions in Victoria on buying more than two of certain essential items, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fish and toilet paper.

Andrews said there was no need for people to be panic buying again.

Victoria reported 671 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday and seven more deaths. Andrews said that a new strategy was required to suppress cases because on the current trajectory it would be the end of the year before Victoria would be in a position to open up again.

The six weeks could be shortened if the numbers do start to come down, but Andrews would not say whether it would be back to stage 3 or less onerous restrictions.

“If everyone plays their part there is some prospect we can achieve our outcome before then. I’m not making any commitments on that and not suggesting if we got to a certain threshold we’d be able to go back to these restrictions prior to me standing up today or another level,” he said.

“Ultimately we’ll have to be, just as we always have been, guided by the data, the evidence, the numbers and the detailed analysis of those numbers.”

Community transmission is still too high under the current restrictions, Andrews said, with the state now having 760 so-called “mystery cases” of coronavirus.

Under the curfew, public transport services will be scaled back between 8pm and 5am, and public transport officers diverted to ensure people are complying.

The state of disaster declaration will empower the police minister, Lisa Neville, to appoint police as authorised officers. This means when doing spot checks on people’s homes, if the residents did not give permission for them to enter, police will be authorised to enter without a warrant.

The fines for breaching health orders remains at $1,652, but Andrews flagged he would have more to say about penalties on Monday.

The premier said he would say more about what specific industries would be closed on Monday.

“They are not easy decisions to make,” he said.

“That’s why we are taking a bit more time to make sure we have full visibility and understanding of what the impacts of those decisions would be, not just on workers and the business, but on those who rely on the goods.”

Andrews said decisions on closures could have supply chain issues well beyond Victoria – noting the state had the biggest container port in the country.

“We are a hub for so many things. Anything that’s shut down here can have knock-on effects and consequences well beyond our state.”

Remote learning will return for years 11 and 12, except for vulnerable children and children of permitted workers. Childcare and kindergarten will be closed from Thursday, except for vulnerable children and children of permitted workers.

Ubers and taxis will still be able to operate, but masks are mandatory and passengers will need to sit in the back seat.

Weddings will no longer be allowed from Thursday, and funerals will be limited to 10 people.

The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, signalled on Sunday that the federal government would be supportive of additional measures aimed at reducing community transmission in Victoria.

“There’s no question that these are very difficult times in Victoria at the moment and I think that everybody wants to see us get on top of this second wave – it’s absolutely vital for the nation that we do this,” he told Sky News.

“We need to make sure that we can get on top of this virus in Victoria.”

Tehan said the two levels of government would work together, with the commonwealth doing what it could to support Victoria’s efforts.

He said the federal government had acknowledged there were things in aged care – a commonwealth responsibility – that “could have been done better” but said the most important thing needed to protect the sector was to bring community transmission under control.

Tehan said the commonwealth would work with Victoria to ensure the public health response – including adequate contract tracing – was adequate.

The shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the developments in Victoria should prompt a rethink of the Coalition’s plan to reduce the rate of the jobkeeper wage subsidy from September. The changes were “based on some pretty rosy assumptions on Victorian restrictions easing rather than becoming tighter”, he said.

“Clearly, jobkeeper shouldn’t be provided forever, but it shouldn’t be withdrawn too quickly,” Chalmers told the ABC.

“We think that the developments since the announcements on jobkeeper a couple of weeks ago do warrant another look at the arrangements the government has announced.”

The state’s number of confirmed infections rose by 397 on Saturday, and although this was far fewer than Thursday’s peak of 723, Andrews was not encouraged.

The state government’s cabinet crisis committee is believed to have held a teleconference overnight.

Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said discussions were being held about the prospect of further restrictions like New Zealand has had, requiring the shutdown of all non-essential services.

The premier has been frustrated by people disobeying public health orders, including positive cases who weren’t home when defence force members came knocking.

One person was fined on Saturday for leaving Melbourne to drive to Wodonga for a hamburger while another tried to drive from Werribee to Springvale – on opposite sides of Melbourne – for groceries.

Andrews said the time for warnings had passed and a “much bigger fine” through the courts was being considered as an alternative to on-the-spot fines.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report