How Melbourne’s virus spike affects you

Australians have spent two months enjoying the cautious rolling back of restrictions, reuniting with family and friends as limits on gatherings expanded and eating meals that didn't come in brown delivery bags.

While aware coronavirus was still out in the world, many of us believed the worst to be over. We started making travel plans that involved a journey further than the path from the fridge to the couch, and hoped we'd never hear the words "panic buying" in the same sentence as toilet paper again.

But now we've had more than a week of new infections in the double-digits in Melbourne. It has not only served us all a lesson in vigilance - and a reminder we won't be totally free of this virus until there's a vaccine - but threatened to bring back, at least in Victoria, the measures we thought were over.

"We've got to live alongside COVID. It's not going anywhere," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

"We've got the systems of protections in place, as we're demonstrating in Victoria. We've got to keep forging ahead and do that together."

In a strongly worded statement, Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said the state is now on a "knife's edge" in its battle against COVID-19.

"I know many Victorians are feeling anxious and unsure," he said.

"After all, so many of us have given up so much in order to keep our state safe. And yet - disappointingly, devastatingly - we again find ourselves on a knife's edge. What we do now will determine what comes next."

Plans to ease back further restrictions in Victoria last Monday were scrapped as new cases continued to rise over the weekend, though Mr Andrews said moving to "local lockdowns" in the Melbourne suburbs where the virus outbreaks are associated isn't yet on the cards.

That hasn't stopped some residents from reverting to old habits - both Coles and Woolworths have been forced to reinstate product limits in Victoria in response to a resurgence of panic buying.

Despite the strict limits - which come a month after restrictions on grocery items in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic were lifted - both supermarket giants described the move as "preventive".

"While we have healthy stock levels to draw on, we're taking this precautionary step to help prevent excessive buying and support appropriate social distancing in our Victorian stores," Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said.

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain, in a similar statement, called the move "temporary" and asked that customers continue to "shop normally so that everyone can have access to the food and groceries they need".

Other restrictions that have been reimposed by the state government include public gatherings - now limited to 10 people - and only five people are allowed to visit a home.

The limit on patrons in restaurants, cafes and pubs remains at 20 (with a maximum group size of 10). Private worship, auctions, small religious ceremonies, cinemas, museums and indoor sport venues also must adhere to a 20-person limit.

Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton also floated the idea of developing some advice on mask use for the state's community, though it wouldn't be "mandated".

"I think it might be worthwhile as an additional intervention, certainly … people shouldn't feel shy about wearing them," Professor Sutton told ABC Radio Melbourne on Tuesday night.

"If you know that there'll be throngs of people and you have to go there and you've got to be within 1.5 metres, it can be an additional protection, we know that."

For the rest of Australia, the main impact the spike in Melbourne's cases could have on restrictions is regarding interstate travel.

While federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has said the clusters shouldn't stop other states reopening their borders as soon as possible, some jurisdictions have been reticent to reopen, which has been a sore spot for weeks now.

With that in mind, here's what the outbreak could mean for you:


Aside from Victoria, NSW was the only state to keep its borders open to interstate travellers throughout the pandemic.

And while Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she won't close the border to Victorians now, both she and Health Minister Brad Hazzard have strongly urged NSW residents not to venture south.

On Thursday, Mr Hazzard told Victorians, "We don't want you to come," to major events in NSW, pointing to concerns about the "dangers which could come from AFL and NRL supporters attending games in Sydney".

The Premier, meanwhile, bluntly warned "all organisations not to interact with citizens from Melbourne, at this stage".

In terms of other restrictions, Ms Berejiklian said the scheduled easing of measures on July 1 will go ahead as planned.

This means indoor venues will be able to operate without capacity limits, providing they abide by the one person per four square metre rule.

Outdoor cultural and sporting venues with a capacity of up to 40,000 will also be allowed to fill a quarter of their seats.


The Queensland border is planned to reopen on July 10, though Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned the date will be reassessed at the end of June.

"We have zero cases here in Queensland, we don't want to see community transmission, we don't want a second wave," Ms Palaszczuk said on Wednesday.

While a Queensland Health spokesman said they appreciated that Queenslanders wanted to return to a more normal way of life "as soon as possible", he added, "It would be a pity to undo all the great work that Queenslanders have done in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the state, which has allowed us to start easing restrictions."


Tasmania's Premier Peter Gutwein announced the long-awaited date for his state's border reopening on Friday, July 24.

However, public health advice will be kept in consideration, Mr Gutwein said, telling reporters the Tasmanian Government will review the coronavirus situation in other jurisdictions over the next month, paying particular attention to the spike in Victoria.

"If the public health advice is that we should maintain our restrictions, then we will maintain our restrictions," Mr Gutwein said.

The Premier said he "simply won't put Tasmanians' lives at risk", after 41 days without a reported case of coronavirus.

"We need to have confidence in other states which may present a risk to Tasmania, states that may have community transmission and could compromise Tasmanians' health and safety," he said.

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The "travel bubble" introduced by the South Australian government last week means that interstate arrivals from Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory won't be expected to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the state.

And while the current plan is for South Australia's border to reopen to NSW and Victoria as well from July 20, Premier Steven Marshall has said that date is subject to change, taking into account the spike in cases in Victoria.

"We're still hopeful we can lift our borders on July 20 nationwide," Mr Marshall said.

"That was the commitment we made. But we also said we are not going to lift the restrictions if it puts undue pressure on our health services. We are not going to be lifting the borders if it's going to set us back in South Australia."


There aren't any border restrictions in place in the Australian Capital Territory, so it's unlikely the current situation in Victoria will have an influence on Territorians.

ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said earlier this week that any ramping back up and reimposing restrictions that have been lifted would be a last resort.

"Implementing further public health restrictions would be a last step and something that we would really prefer not to do," Dr Coleman said.

"It is one of the reasons that we are asking everyone to try and continue to do their physical distancing."


The Northern Territory will reopen its border to all states on July 17 - except to those travelling from areas considered a coronavirus hotspot, Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced on Friday.

"If your suburb or local government area has been declared a hotspot by your state or territory government, or by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, then you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days in a regional centre and at your own cost, before you can enjoy the NT," Mr Gunner said.

"The Territory has stayed safe by closing our borders to all states. In our next step, we will stay safe by keeping our borders closed to suburbs that are not safe."

The suburbs and local government areas deemed hot spots by the NT Government will be listed on their coronavirus website here.


Interstate travellers have largely been considered a risk to Western Australia's response to COVID-19, Premier Mark McGowan has maintained.

While Health Minister Roger Cook said last week there were "advanced discussions" about either releasing a road map or offering an indicative date to open the border, Mr McGowan said this week what's happening in Victoria would be taken into account on any decisions his government makes.

Originally published as How Melbourne's virus spike affects you