Melbourne goes into 'hard and fast' lockdown to contain Covid outbreak

MELBOURNE : Australia's bid to quash a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak saw its second largest city locked down shortly before midnight yesterday.

Melbourne and the rest of Victoria joined Sydney in a "hard and fast" lockdown, state Premier Dan Andrews said, as Australia battles an outbreak of the Delta variant.

The state of 6.6 million was told to stay home except for grocery shopping, essential work, exercise, healthcare and getting vaccinated.

The lockdown is Melbourne's fifth since the pandemic began a year and a half ago.

The state had recorded 18 new infections in the past two days.

Mr Andrews yesterday said he took the decision to impose a five-day lockdown "with a heavy heart" but it was an "absolute necessity".

"Nothing about this virus is fair," he said, describing how just 18 cases in Victoria had mixed with thousands of contacts who must now be traced and tested.

"You only get one chance to go hard and go fast," he said.

"If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier."

Australia's largest city, Sydney, is already in its fourth week of lockdown.

The authorities said yesterday that the situation had "stabilised" - with 65 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

But the lockdown is set to continue for two more weeks to try and eliminate any community transmission. Australia has recorded nearly 1,000 cases of the strain nationwide in the last month. - AFP, REUTERS