Australian state of Victoria to enter lockdown to halt spread of Kent Covid strain

12 February 2021, 06:47 | Updated: 12 February 2021, 06:57

The Australian Open is going ahead but without spectators
The Australian Open is going ahead but without spectators. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Australian state of Victoria is entering a new lockdown in an attempt to suppress an outbreak of the Kent strain of coronavirus.

Officials have found 13 cases stemming from a worker who unknowingly became infected at a Melbourne hotel.

The Australian Open tennis tournament is continuing, but with no spectators.

The five-day lockdown will be enforced in Melbourne and across Victoria state to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital.

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Only international flights that were already in the air when the lockdown was announced will be allowed to land at Melbourne Airport, schools and many businesses will be closed and residents are ordered to stay at home except to exercise and for essential purposes.

A population of 6.5 million will be locked down from 11.59pm local time until the same time on Wednesday. 13 people have been infected.

Melbourne emerged from a 111-day lockdown in October following a fresh wave of infections that peaked at 725 cases a day.

It was largely blamed on lax infection control procedures at two Melbourne hotels where international travellers were required to quarantine for 14 days.

At the time, the rest of Australia was relaxing restrictions due to low case numbers after an initial nationwide lockdown.

Some Australian states have imposed border restrictions on travellers from Melbourne, and federal politicians were on Friday rushing to get to the national capital Canberra to attend Parliament on Monday for fear that the Australian Capital Territory government will restrict their entry.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt were in Melbourne to inspect biotechnology company CSL Ltd's plant where a local version of the AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured.

Mr Morrison said, before the lockdown was announced, that he was confident the state government could handle the cluster.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't confident," he told reporters.

"I've just flown down from Sydney today. That's why I'm here. Business as usual for me being in Melbourne here today."