Victorians hit the supermarkets in their droves on Friday in now familiar scenes of panic-buying, as the clock ticked down ahead of the state’s latest COVID lockdown.
There were widespread reports of lengthy queues and customers with overloaded trolleys from supermarkets across the state – with the rush starting even before Premier Daniel Andrews began his 1pm announcement with the all-too-familiar “are we all right to go?”.
The first reports emerged as the Victorian cabinet was locked in crisis talks earlier on Friday.
By the time Mr Andrews emerged to confirm a snap five-day lockdown for the whole state, to begin at 11.59pm on Friday, many supermarket shelves had been stripped.
Within hours of the announcement, Woolworths and Coles had introduced buying limits on essential items, including toilet paper.
See the full list of Woolworths limited items here.
The panic continued, even as Mr Andrews confirmed that supermarkets would remain open during what he described as a “circuit-breaker” lockdown to quash the worrying virus cluster that has emerged from the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn.
“You are allowed to go and shop [during the lockdown]. Supplies are adequate … You just put all manner of pressure on some of the hardest workers,” the Premier said.
“There is no need to be doing that. There just isn’t. There never, ever was. It creates shortages. It doesn’t protect you against them.”
From midnight Friday, Victoria will return to Stage 4 lockdown rules, meaning there are only four main reasons to leave the home: shopping for essential supplies, care and caregiving, exercise and essential work.
Exercise and shopping will be limited to within five kilometres from home.
Face masks are required whenever Victorians are outside their own homes, and no visitors will be allowed in homes.
Schools and tertiary education will be closed, public gatherings are banned, people must work from home when they can, and weddings will be banned except for on compassionate grounds.
Places of worship and religious gatherings and ceremonies will not be permitted, and funerals will be capped at 10 people.
The abrupt move was prompted by the virus outbreak linked to the Holiday Inn, which grew to 13 cases on Friday. Confirmed infections include a female assistant manager and four close contacts of people who earlier tested positive for the virus.
The “working assumption” is that all have the British strain of the virus.
Mr Andrews said the “hyper-infectious” strain was presenting in a way that “is a very significant concern to us”.
“Because this is so infectious and is moving so fast, we need a circuit breaker,” he said.
“People, Victorians, know what to do, and they know that these tactics, this type of response, works.”
All states and territories react to Vic crisis
Other states have been quick to respond to the Victorian outbreak.
Queensland and the Northern Territory have declared greater Melbourne a hotspot, requiring any travellers to go into 14 days quarantine on arrival.
Queensland Acting Health Minister Steven Miles said the 14-day border closure would give contact tracers time to track 1500 people in Queensland linked to the Melbourne outbreak.
“This hotspot declaration will allow us to get on top of our contact tracing over that five-day period and monitor the situation there,” he said.
Western Australia has also introduced a hard border regime for Victorian arrivals.
Tasmania will also close its border with Victoria from midnight Friday.
Premier Peter Gutwein said the closure was likely to last the length of the Victorian lockdown.
“The message is very clear, don’t come to Tasmania,” he said.
“I would hope this is a temporary measure. We will be cognisant of what occurs in Victoria over the next five days.”
NSW is screening all arrivals from Victoria. Premier Gladys Berejiklian described the Melbourne outbreak as a “concerning, evolving situation” on Friday morning, but said tightened security measures at Sydney Airport were adequate “at this stage”.
“That’s how we intend to proceed at this stage, there’s no reason for us to close the border,” she said on Nine’s Today show.
South Australia has slammed its border shut to all of Victoria, with Premier Steven Marshall declaring the entire state a COVID hotspot on Friday.
“We extend our border restrictions, which were previously in place just for the greater Melbourne area, to all of Victoria, and this also includes the cross-border arrangements while Victoria has its stage IV, 5-day lockdown in place,” Mr Marshall said.
Anyone who has visited Terminal 4 of Melbourne Airport since February is required to quarantine for 14 days from the date they arrived in SA.
Also, anyone who has been at Tullamarine Airport, including staff, from February 7, needs to test and isolate until they get a negative result.
In both cases, family and household contacts must do the same until at least the first negative result has been received.
- Victoria’s current virus exposure sites are here
There is most concern for Melbourne Airport’s Terminal Four, which was declared a virus exposure site on Friday. It sparked fears the coronavirus might have spread interstate through people who have passed through the airport.