Around a quarter of a million people in Australia’s second most populous state will be told to stay at home as businesses begin to close in Melbourne on Wednesday evening to stem the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The state of Victoria had already told residents it would impose a nightly curfew and begin to restrict peoples movements on Sunday night as authorities confirmed 671 newly confirmed cases of the virus across a 24 hour period.
Now regional premier Daniel Andrews has said non-essential businesses will close for six weeks starting late on Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, as part of its “stage four” restrictions in a move expected to impact 250,000 jobs in the area.
And with some 500,000 currently working from home and a further 250,000 already furloughed, around a million people are expected to be remaining in their homes across the region.
Sectors affected by the rules will include the majority of those in retail and manufacturing - while construction firms and abattoirs will also have to scale back production.
“This is a uniquely Australian and Victorian approach,” Mr Andrews said, adding, “It’s critically important to have many, many people at home rather than at work and moving to and from work each and every day.”
The Victoria government is concerned that many infections are being driven by people who are tested for Covid-19 and return to work before they get the results back, usually two days later.
It comes after Mr Andrews warned the state’s residents that if they didn’t return to lockdown “we’re not going to get through this”.
“We need to do more. That is what these decisions are about”, he added.
Meanwhile the nation’s prime minister Scott Morrison announced a $1,500AUSD payment for workers in the state who have been forced to isolate and don't have paid sick leave.
Describing the stipend as disaster relief, he said: "It's heartbreaking. This pandemic, this virus is taking a heavy toll and now's the time, as it has been throughout this pandemic, that we continue to provide support to one another”.
Additional reporting by agencies