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Whole of Victoria returns to lockdown

Melbourne, Victoria
Victoria has recorded 61 new virus cases, with concern growing about a cluster in Shepparton. Photo: AAP
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The entire state of Victoria will be in lockdown from 1pm as authorities scramble to contain a rapidly growing cluster of COVID-19 centred on the regional city of Shepparton.

Premier Daniel Andrews says all of regional Victoria is at risk and a statewide lockdown is the only option to head off a scenario like the one playing out in NSW.

All of regional Victoria will enter lockdown at 1pm, and it will continue until September 2.

Regional centres face the same orders that are in place in Melbourne, with one notable exception. They will not be subject to the curfew that’s in place in the capital.

Mr Andrews has also shut down access to childcare services for all but vulnerable children, and the children of authorised workers. Permits will be needed to access child care.

Masks are now also being recommended for primary school children when they are indoors, to address a significant over-representation of young children among the state’s 402 active cases.

And there will be workforce restrictions for more high-risk industries in Melbourne, such as abattoirs, meat processing centres, and large supermarket distribution centres.

Victoria recorded 61 new locally acquired virus cases on Saturday, including 39 that were infectious in the community. Authorities have only been able to link 48 of the cases to known outbreaks.

An additional 16 cases have been detected – all in Shepparton – via rapid testing. They will be included in Sunday’s numbers.

“Sadly the public health team have advised that given the Shepparton outbreak and the fact that at least one person travelled to Bendigo, and potentially others travelled beyond, that is to say there is a very significant risk of transmission right across regional Victoria,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Saturday.

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said there were now 18 people in hospital, including eight in intensive care, and two on ventilators.

“We also note those numbers are starting to increase,” he said.

Of the 77 cases mentioned today Saturday’s 61 and the 16 to be officially counted on Sunday 31 were in “two large and rapidly growing clusters”.

One is the Shepparton cluster, which numbers 17 so far.

The other is the MyCentre Multicultural Youth Centre at Broadmeadows in suburban Melbourne. Another 14 cases were added to that cluster on Saturday, taking the total to 27.

Mr Weimar said most of the other cases were linked to known clusters across Melbourne, but there were 11 unlinked cases covering a wide area of Melbourne including Airport West, Frankston, Keysborough, Docklands and Yarraville.

Mr Andrews said the decisions announced on Saturday were very tough, but if people played by the rules they would work.

“The rules will protect life and it will mean that if we follow them, we can drive these numbers down and be open again.”

He said the childcare shut down would be very hard, but it was essential to drive down the high numbers of young children getting the virus.

Mr Weimar said there were almost 9000 primary close contacts, and more than 10,000 secondary contacts now in isolation to help contain the virus.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said containing spread among young children was critical, given their significant over-representation in current cases, and primary school children should wear masks indoors if they can.

“Some kids will do it … some kids will absolutely not be able to do it,” he said, stressing it was recommendation, not a rule.

“These are significant and really tough decisions but we are buying time. We are doing what we know works. A transmission saved today is 100 cases, 1000 cases saved a month from now.”

More than 45,000 test results were received in the past 24 hours, with 29,539 vaccine doses given at vaccination sites.

-AAP