News Panic – and crowds – as Victoria enters ‘state of disaster’

Panic – and crowds – as Victoria enters ‘state of disaster’

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Five million Victorians have woken to the country’s toughest coronavirus restrictions yet – and they’re being told to prepare for more changes.

Melbourne fell silent from 8pm when a curfew came into effect on Sunday, while regional Victorians were preparing their face masks for the first day of a statewide mandatory mask rule.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdown was “regrettably necessary”, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent out a message of support on Instagram.

“Australians all around the country are backing you in,” Mr Morrison wrote.

“We all know for Australia to succeed, we need Victoria to get through this.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a “state of disaster” on Sunday, ushering in tough restrictions after another surge in infections and seven more deaths. The new lockdown rules are expected to last for six weeks – at least.

The state had a further 671 COVID cases on Sunday, while the deaths took its toll to 123 and the nation’s to 208.

The new rules mean Victorian students will return to at-home learning, although pupils are expected on-campus for a final day on Monday.

Parents have expressed confusion about the rules for childcare, and whether early education centres will remain open.

Workers in “non-essential” companies are headed to work on Monday, while anxiously waiting for news about whether their workplaces will shut.

Mr Andrews will announce further workplace and business restrictions on Monday – but has said supermarkets and other essential shops will remain open.

Panic-buying begins – again

The Premier’s assurances did not stop panicked Victorians emptying supermarket shelves before the official start of the “state of disaster” at 6pm on Sunday.

Woolworths reintroduced buying limits hours before the announcement of stage four lockdown measures, with long queues forming from as early as 7am at some supermarkets.

People also lined up outside butchers amid fears of possible meat shortages due to panic-buying and a string of COVID outbreaks at Victorian meatworks.

Nervous customers also rushed to bottle shops to stock up on alcohol.

By the end of the day, meat and fresh produce shelves had been emptied at some supermarkets in central Melbourne.

Empty shelves at a Woolworths in Toorak, in central Melbourne, on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Supplied

Mr Andrews said there was no need for panic buying as supermarkets, pharmacies, bakeries, butchers and bottle shops would remain open amid tightened lockdown restrictions.

Melbourne woman Jacqui Stenniken, 27, told The New Daily there was “zero meat on the shelves” at Woolworths in Highett in Melbourne’s south-east.

“It was like the apocalypse,” she said.

A Woolworths in Hampton, in suburban Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

Woolworths reinstated two-per-customer limits on at least 50 products both in-store and online, including a range of canned and frozen foods, fresh meat, dairy, disinfectants and toilet paper.

Elsewhere, Coles has said it will close its metropolitan Melbourne stores – including supermarkets, Liquorlands and First Choice outlets – at 7.45pm every day to meet the curfew requirements.

Beach crowds

Crowds didn’t only flock to supermarkets. Singer Anthony Callea posted a video to Facebook showing droves of “selfish” and “ignorant” Melbournians at St Kilda beach.

“Why do so many people think they are above it all? These self entitled people will be the first to blame other people and the government for the current situation – we ALL have a role to play!” he wrote.

South Australia on alert, masks for NSW

South Australia had two new coronavirus cases on Sunday, one a woman in her 20s who was at a school while likely infectious.

The cases were revealed as the state warned of the potential for tougher protection measures.

The woman was a close contact of a known COVID-19 case and had been placed in hotel quarantine, SA chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said.

Health representatives are contacting staff and students at Thebarton Senior College and Roma Mitchell Secondary College, where the woman attended while infectious.

The second case is a teenage girl who flew into the state from Victoria on July 26.

Authorities have found seven close contacts of the girl, who had symptoms 11 days before arriving in SA and tested positive on Saturday.

NSW, meanwhile, updated its mask advice after 12 new infections on Sunday. NSW Health now recommends masks be worn in four specific circumstances: Enclosed spaces such as public transport or supermarkets; working in customer-facing roles in hospitality or retail; attending a place of worship; and if in an area of high community transmission.

Both Queensland and Western Australia reported one new coronavirus case apiece, coming from returning overseas travellers.

-with AAP