The Victorian Government has declared a state of disaster due to increasing coronavirus cases, with new lockdown restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne coming into place from Sunday night.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the stage four restrictions on Sunday, which include an 8pm-5am curfew in metro Melbourne for non-essential activities, for a six-week period until 13 September.
He said the decision for tougher measures was not “easy to make”, but with forecasts that stage three restrictions could drag out to the end of the year if virus case numbers continued to escalate, it was a necessary one.
“From 6pm tonight, I am declaring a state of disaster across Victoria. This is in addition to the state of emergency that has operated throughout; this means police and others have additional powers,” Mr Andrews said.
“You will no longer be able to leave home and go any further away from your home than a five-kilometre radius; you will not be able to be at any point more than five kilometres away from your home for the purposes of shopping for what you need.
“There’s no question about the enforceability and the way in which new rules will operate. The only reason to be out of your home between 8pm and 5am is to get care, to give care, or to go to and from work or be at work,” he said.
“We can no longer have people visiting others, we can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason.
“Six weeks versus a slower strategy, a much, much slower strategy that takes up to six months, I’m not prepared to accept that.
“I’m not prepared to accept days and days and days of hundreds of cases and more and more death, these are very significant steps, they’re not taken lightly, it is very challenging but it is exactly what we have to do.”
From 6pm tonight, Melbourne’s new rules will include:
- Residents cannot be more than 5 kilometres from home for the purposes of exercise or shopping for essentials
- Exercise outside will be limited to one hour per day, with one other person (no family or share house groups)
- Only one person, per household, will be able to get groceries and essentials once a day
- Public transport will be restricted overnight
- Organised sport and recreation will be banned
- Weddings will be banned from Thursday (with exemptions for compassionate grounds)
- Visits to intimate partners will be limited to 5km
- Restaurants and cafes will remain open for takeaway only, subject to conditions
“Ultimately all of these changes are about limiting movement… limiting the number of people we come into contact with. It is not an opportunity to live our lives as if this pandemic was not real, and was not here and was not literally the biggest challenge we have, perhaps, ever faced,” Mr Andrews said.
He added that these new restrictions are about “the way we live” and further announcements about workplaces and industry are set to come on Monday.
From midnight next Wednesday, regional Victoria will move to stage 3 restrictions – requiring residents to stay at home, except for the four reasons to leave.
How stage 4 lockdown could affect Melbourne property
Real Estate Institute of Victoria president, Leah Calnan, said they were waiting on advice from the government about any further restrictions to the industry, pending Monday’s more detailed announcement.
“We’re confident that private inspections and online auction platforms will continue during these tightening of restrictions. As an industry, we know how privileged we are to be able to continue to work through these difficult times and we know our responsibility in supplying shelter to our consumers, whether it’s selling or seeking a new home,” Ms Calnan said.
“We don’t have any direct updates from government at the moment, but as an industry we’ve been working extremely hard to ensure our members are doing everything they can.”
Nerida Conisbee, realestate.com.au’s chief economist, said the Melbourne residential market shouldn’t be too affected across the six-week period of tighter restrictions – however, a slowdown or ban on construction could cause issues.
“The residential market is what it is, but construction will be the big one, given its importance to the Melbourne economy,” Ms Conisbee said.
“What was showing up in realestate.com.au’s latest [consumer] survey is that buyers and sellers think it’s better to just knock it on the head [with tighter restrictions], to get the virus under control.
Status of JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments
JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments will continue at the current rates until after the new lockdown period expires, with Mr Andrews and Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to monitor the situation.
“We’re going to continue our discussions and if there are any areas where there are anomalies, any areas where businesses might not or workers might not qualify for those – when clearly they should because it’s about addressing hardship – then we will continue to work through those issues,” Mr Andrews said.
“I was very encouraged by the Prime Minister’s partnership and his sense that we are all in this together and providing support particularly income support and potentially cashflow support beyond that for businesses, is something we need to work closely together to do.”