Victoria will be declared a State of Disaster in just over an hour from now, with Premier Daniel Andrews announcing a raft of lockdown measures as the state battles to contain its growing wave of COVID-19 cases.
“We must do more. We must go harder. It’s the only way we’ll get to the other side of this,” the Premier said.
The State of Disaster declaration comes into effect from 6pm, with a new nightly curfew to be enforced from 8pm, effectively locking residents indoors until 5am.
“The current rate of community transmission – mystery cases that cannot be traced back to work or home – is far too high,” Mr Andrews said.
“Based on the current numbers, cases might begin to drop off not in days or weeks – but in months.
“Months more of 300, 400, 500 cases a day. More Victorians in hospital beds. More Victorians hooked up to machines just to breathe. And more Victorians – more grandparents, parents, sons, daughters, partners and loved ones – choked to death by an invisible enemy.
“That’s not something I’m willing to accept. I don’t think it’s something any of us are willing to accept.”
From 6pm, Melbourne will move to Stage 4 restrictions with stronger rules to limit the movement of people.
“The only reasons to leave home during these hours will be work, medical care and caregiving. Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks,” said the Premier.
“There’ll be exemptions for partners who live apart and for work, if required. The Night Network will be suspended, and public transport services will be reduced during curfew hours.
“This will also allow us to redeploy more of our PSOs into our enforcement efforts.”
He said new time, distance and gathering limits will also apply for exercise and shopping outings.
“Exercise will be limited to a maximum of one hour per day and no more than five kilometres from your home.”
“Group size will be limited to a maximum of two – you and one other person – whether you live with them or not.
“Shopping will be limited to one person per household per day. Again, the five-kilometre rule will apply. Of course, there’ll be some common-sense exceptions. If your closest supermarket is further than five kilometres, you can still shop there. If you’re a parent with little ones, you can still take them with you when you go for a walk.”
The Premier said the distance, gathering and time limit rules won’t apply for work, those seeking medical care or for compassionate reasons.
Students will be drastically affected once again though, with learning at schools, TAFE and universities to go back online from Wednesday.
“The question I know most parents will be asking: schools will return to remote and flexible learning – across all year levels.”
“Students who are currently attending onsite – including senior students and those in our specialist schools – will go to school on Monday, have a pupil free day on Tuesday, and be learning at home from Wednesday.”
He said onsite supervision at school sites would still be offered but would be available under significantly tighter guidelines.
“That means children whose parents are permitted workers and vulnerable kids who can’t learn from home.”
He said from Thursday, the same rules would apply to Melbourne’s kinder and early childhood education services.
“We know this will be a significant ask of parents with little ones – and big ones too. But I promise, as a parent to three, it’s an ask I don’t make lightly.”
The Premier said the changes would remain in place for at least the next six weeks until Sunday 13 September.
“As always, we’ll keep reviewing and realigning the restrictions in line with the advice of our health experts – and if we can change things earlier, we will.”
The news is no better for regional Victoria, with the hospitality industry again partially shut down as part of Stage 3 restrictions from midnight Wednesday.
“That means restaurants and cafes can only offer delivery and takeaway.”
“Beauty and personal services will need to close.
“Entertainment and cultural venues will need to close. Community sport will need to stop. This will be tough for these businesses and their workers – and we’ll have more to say very shortly about extra support to help get you through.”
The Premier asked Victorians to “be calm, be kind and be patient” throughout the new lockdown period.
“I’ve had the job of leading this state for almost six years – more than 2000 days. And today is by far the hardest day – and the hardest decision.”
“But it is the decision I’ve made to keep our state safe. The whole way through this, I promised to be upfront. So I’ll say this now. This will be imperfect. And for a little while, there’ll be more questions than answers. I understand people will feel scared and sad and worried.
“But we are Victorians – and we will get through this as Victorians. With grit, with guts and together. All the temporary sacrifices we make now – all the time missed with mates, those delayed visits to mum – those sacrifices will help keep our mates and our mums and our fellow Victorians safe. We can – we will – get through this. Apart. But together,” he said.