Melbourne goes into coronavirus lockdown for the second time

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SYDNEY/MELBOURNE: Lockdown measures were reimposed in Australia's second biggest city yesterday, confining Melbourne residents to their homes for six weeks unless undertaking essential business, as officials scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

The decision, which affects around 4.9 million people, was announced just hours before the busy border between Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and New South Wales is scheduled to close for the first time in a century.

From midnight today, everyone in Melbourne will be required to stay home unless travelling to work, studying, shopping for food or attending medical appointments.

Restaurants, cafes and bars will be able to provide takeaway service only, gyms and hair salons will be closed, household gatherings limited to two people and the current school vacation extended.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the restrictions were onerous but necessary.

"I would, with the greatest of respect, put it to you getting this virus and dying from it is very onerous too," he said during a televised media conference.

Victoria was responsible for 191 of the 199 new cases reported nationally yesterday, the biggest one-day rise since early April. The spike has worried officials, even though the national total of almost 8,800 cases and 106 deaths is far below many other countries.

Mr Andrews had over the weekend reinstated strict social-distancing orders in more than 30 Melbourne suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown because of the recent outbreak.

Over in the US, its top infectious diseases expert said the country is still "knee-deep" in its first wave of infections and must act immediately to tackle the recent surge.

Dr Anthony Fauci said in a web interview with National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins: "If you look at the graphs from Europe, the European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to the baseline.

"Now they're having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen. We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we're surging back up." - REUTERS, AFP