Melbourne Placed Under Week-Long Lockdown After Over 10K People Exposed to COVID

Melbourne and the surrounding Victoria state will enter a seven-day lockdown Thursday at midnight after 10,000 people were found to have had contact with 26 new documented COVID-19 variant infections.

The Australian federal government designated Melbourne as a hotspot, which gives the area access to supplementary federal aid and resources, the Associated Press reported. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that 218 military personnel would be stationed in Victoria and extra vaccine doses would be sent to the state.

"Unless something changes, this will be increasingly uncontrollable," Victoria Acting Premier James Merlino said.

Melbourne and Victoria residents will only be able to leave their homes to purchase food and essentials, receive vaccine doses, access or administer care, work or study if it requires leaving the house and exercise. The lockdown will close all schools and limit restaurants to takeout service, while all professional sports will carry on without spectators.

Within Australia's population of 26 million, just 3.9 million COVID vaccine doses have been dispensed. Health Minister Greg Hunt called the shutdown "highly regrettable," but essential in managing the Melbourne outbreaks.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Melbourne Lockdown
In this Aug. 5, 2021, file photo, an empty Swanston Street is seen at night in the Central Business District as lockdown due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 prepares to start in Melbourne. Melbourne, the city that was once Australia’s worst COVID-19 hot spot has announced a seven-day lockdown, its fourth since the pandemic began. Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP Photo

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the variant was the same one identified in India and designated by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern. It was more transmissible than some variants.

The states of Western Australia and South Australia are restricting travel from Victoria and New Zealand has halted quarantine-free travel to Melbourne.

The new Melbourne cluster was found after a traveler from India became infected while in hotel quarantine in South Australia state earlier this month. The traveler was not diagnosed until he returned home from Adelaide to Melbourne.

The city of 5 million people became Australia's worst hot spot last year. Infections peaked at 725 new cases in a single day in August at a time when community spread had been virtually eliminated elsewhere in the country.

That lockdown lasted for 111 days. A third lockdown that lasted for five days in February was triggered by a cluster of 13 cases linked to hotel quarantine near Melbourne Airport.

Victoria accounts for 820 of Australia's 910 coronavirus deaths.

Victoria Vaccination Site
Staff wearing PPE are seen amongst massive queues at a pop-up COVID test site at Albert Park Lake on May 27, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Victorian health authorities remain on high alert as they work to contain a COVID-19 cluster in the community. Coronavirus restrictions were reintroduced on Monday with masks now required inside while private gatherings are now limited to five people in Greater Melbourne, and public gatherings are limited to 30. Daniel Pockett/Getty Images