Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Authorities to ease some restrictions in Melbourne and across Victoria, Australia, from 2359 Sept. 13. Other measures in effect.

Alert Begins 07 Sep 2020 02:38 AM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Victoria State, including Greater Melbourne (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least September
  • Impact: Movement restrictions, business and flight disruptions, increased security

Victoria officials will ease some restrictions from 2359 Sept. 13 as part of a four-step program to gradually reduce measures while still curbing the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The government will implement the second step of the program, which will constitute a slightly relaxed version of its ongoing stage three measures for Victoria state. Childcare services will resume, and schools will prepare to reopen for Term 4, albeit with safety measures in place. Authorities will allow public gatherings of up to five people from a maximum of two households; outdoor religious congregations can also occur with up to five individuals. Officials will allow outdoor playgrounds and pools to reopen as well, though residents are not allowed to exercise more than 5 km (3 miles) away from their residences. Residents across the state can only leave their homes for permitted reasons, including attending work or school, providing or receiving care, purchasing essential goods, or exercising; however, there will be fewer limits on frequency of trips and time spent.

Statewide measures that remain ongoing through Sept. 13 include mandatory wearing of facemasks in public for all above 12 years old. People do not need to wear facemasks while jogging, running, or cycling, but must carry them. Authorities could issue fines of up to AUD 200 (USD 140) for people breaking the order. Stage three restrictions for businesses are in place for all affected areas. Nonessential companies and venues, such as personal care services, gyms, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions, remain closed. Restaurants and cafes are open but can only offer takeaway and delivery options. Residents can only leave their homes to purchase nonessential goods, seek or receive medical care, go to work or school, or exercise. All students, except children of essential workers and students with special needs, are utilizing remote learning across Victoria since 2359 Aug. 4. Officials have also banned all weddings in the state through Sept. 13. Community sports and group recreational activities are prohibited.

In Melbourne, officials will implement the first step of the program, slightly easing ongoing stage four restrictions, from 2359 Sept. 13. Authorities will reduce the curfew to 2100-0500 and allow people to exercise outdoors for up to two hours daily; one person per household may leave home for essential purchases. Gatherings of up to two people from different households or all people of the same household are allowed outdoors for up to two hours. People living alone will be allowed to invite one other person to their residence.

Ongoing measures in Melbourne through Sept. 13 include a daily 2000-0500 curfew. People can only leave their homes to purchase essential goods, seek or provide medical care, go to work or school, or exercise. Residents are only allowed to travel within 5 km (3 miles) of their homes. Only one person per household can leave their homes each day to purchase essential goods, and recreational activity is restricted to one hour of exercise every day. Groups are limited to two people, with exemptions for those with children.

Victoria Police will further increase their presence to enforce the measure. Officers are likely to increase patrols throughout the affected areas. Authorities plan to randomly stop and question drivers and pedestrians to confirm the reason for their travel. Random checkpoints are likely. Fines are possible.

The federal government has diverted international flights from airports in Melbourne (MEL, AVV) per the Victoria government's request due to concerns over quarantine capacity and effectiveness. Since July 1, officials have rerouted inbound flights to other states, effectively halting international flights into Melbourne. Incoming passengers will have to undergo quarantine before traveling to Victoria. Intrastate travel remains banned until further notice, with exemptions made for a permitted purpose. Victoria authorities could expand or intensify measures in the coming days and weeks, especially if new COVID-19 cases or community transmission do not decline significantly.

Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Remain polite and nonconfrontational if questioned by security personnel. Avoid crowded areas as a precaution. Stock up on essential supplies. Confirm business appointments in affected areas. Check the status of flights with airlines if flying into Melbourne in the coming weeks.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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